Global Criminal Network Congolese Rebels Laundering Money in Germany, UN Report Reveals
According to a leaked United Nations' report, the rebels in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo are out of control. Despite the UN having been present in the country for 10 years, there is still no end in sight to the conflict that has seen thousands of civilians raped, tortured and murdered.
Sanctions in the Democratic Republic of Congo are failing. That is the stark conclusion of a United Nations-commissioned report on the UN's mission there, which the UN Security Council will be discussing this week. The leaked report reveals that rebels in the Congo have expanded their criminal network into a global crime ring that is funding the ongoing conflicts, including money laundering taking place in Germany.
The UN arms sanctions in place are apparently being violated through a global network serving the militants that have embroiled the central African country in a civil war since the mid-1990s. The report shows a vast network of illegal trade is funding the militia's increasingly-violent battle.
According to the report, which has been seen by the New York Times, the BBC and Germany's Tageszeitung newspaper, the militia group Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) is illegally selling lucrative minerals to markets in Russia and China. The FDLR "has a far-reaching diaspora network involved in the day-to-day running of the movement; coordination of military and arms-trafficking activities and the management of financial activities," the report reads, according to the New York Times.
Congolese authorities say as much as 37,000 kilograms (80,000 pounds) of gold -- worth more than 1 billion at current prices -- is smuggled out of the central African country each year. Much of that money goes straight into the pockets of the rebels to fund the civil war that broke out in the mid-1990s.
The FLDR are allegedly using the money to expand around the globe. The report mentions bank accounts in the US, businesses in Britain and leaders tucked away in France. Weapons are apparently being bought from Belgium, Spain, Ukraine, Sudan and North Korea.
On Nov. 18, German officials arrested the FDLR president Ignace Murwanashyaka on suspicion of having led the war in Congo since 2001. His deputy, Straton Musoni, was also arrested near Stuttgart. According to the Tageszeitung, the UN report accuses Murwanashyaka of coordinating weapons and ammunitions deals from his home in the German city of Mannheim.
Money allegedly came to Germany from Muyeye, one of the Congo's largest mineral-trading firms in the eastern city of Bukavu. According to the Tageszeitung, the UN report names Jean-Marie Shamavu, an employee at Muyeye, as the one who transferred the money into the account of a colleague of Murwanashyaka's in Germany. Musoni's wife was also named in connection to the transfer of the money. There has been criticism of Germany for not doing more to stop the money-laundering activites that the FDLR allegedly carried out on its territory.
In the 10 years since the UN's peacekeeping mission in the Congo started, not much has changed despite the thousands of personnel the organization has deployed there and the millions of dollars it has spent. Rebels still have a stronghold on the eastern part of the country. One UN official told the New York Times that some diplomats are trying to delay the report because "there is a lot in there that makes us look complicit."
The authors of the report, which was written by a group of experts mandated by the UN to evaluate the arms embargo in the Congo, found that weapons are making it into the hands of the Hutu rebels who fled into the country from Rwanda, despite the embargo.
The Congolese Tutsi rebels who claim to have joined the Congolese national army are more frequently operating as an independent "shadow army," observers say. The authors of the report suspect the rebels, under the leadership of General Bosco Ntaganda, also known as "The Terminator," have gained command of more regions and are committing murders, rapes and lootings under the guise of a military mission.
Because of this, the UN experts are also pointing to contradictions in the UN's mandate in Congo. The mandate says that the UN has to protect civilians and back the national military. However that military is now making matters worse for the war-torn country, say the report's authors.