The CNDP’s dominance in East Congo is also an economic dominance. In this, Ntaganda is never far away, especially in the mining sector. Some analysts are banking on the recent U.S. Dodd-Franck act to demilitarize the raw materials market. That act forces NYSE quoted companies to declare the origin of their raw materials, in particular whether they are benefiting armed groups. Major electronics brands using tin and coltan, such as Motorola, Apple, Philips and Samsung, are affected by this act. In reaction to this act, president Kabila prohibited all traditional mining in Congo in September 2010. This measure was meant to weed out criminal networks involved in the mining industry.
In reality, the reverse happened in North Kivu: higher military ranks use the mining prohibition to extend their illegal trading practices. Kabila’s ending the prohibition in March 2011, changed little to that situation. The harm was done. MO* infiltrated in CNDP networks to map out the East Congo smuggling route. One of the smuggling routes begins in Numbi, a village west of Kivu lake. ‘A number of tin mines in this area are guarded by ex-CNDP soldiers’, confirms Henri Nkeng, expert at the UN MONUSCO peace force. Nkeng works for the International Tin Research Institute in Numbi, where he develops a certification system that makes it possible to trace raw materials back to their origin. Nkeng: ‘We established buying centres, where the bags receive ‘conflict free’ labels.
Only the bags carrying such a label can be exported. Raw materials from mines exploited by the rebels or the army, are excluded.’ For the time being, that’s theory. In reality the smuggling network is working at full steam, says a villager who rents his house for raw materials storage. ‘The raw materials are packed in bags with a layer of beans on top, and then carried to Goma by porters.’
After following a cargo of “beans”, we arrive in Kalungu, a village halfway between Numbi and Goma. After five hours’ walking, the porters deliver their 50 kilo bags of under cover raw materials. Their reward is about twenty euro. It’s market day in Kalungu. Mangos and bananas are sold everywhere. They are loaded on trucks together with the “beans”. ‘Four to six times a month I load beans’, explains a driver. ‘I charge eight to twelve euro per bag. Whenever the truck is inspected, I give the policemen a tip and continue my trip.’ ‘The goods are delivered to us in trucks loaded with fruit and vegetables’, confirm some buyers in Goma, who are buying from Numbi. ‘From here, they are picked up by Congolese army vehicles and transported to the border, where their Rwandan colleagues take over.’
The friendly understanding between the CNDP and the Rwandan soldiers is nothing new.
It is encouraged by the fact that both groups belong to the same Tutsi ethnicity and by the memory of common wars. The raw materials pass the border in Goma via the bumpy Rue des Acacias. There at a stone’s throw from the Rwandan border lives Bosco Ntanganda, the patron of this raw materials maffia, in his highly protected residence. Here, the border is no more than a couple of rocks between the Congolese and the Rwandan side of the street. The cities of Goma and Gisenyi merge into one another, as a result of which the smuggling is really taking placing in an urban environment. In December 2011 the UN Security Council published the final report of the expert group on the Congo.
The experts describe in detail how Ntaganda is controlling the area of a few hundred metres between the two official border-crossings in Goma. Ntaganda also often visits Rwanda. Two other ex-CNDP officers, one of which is a relative of Ntaganda’s, live in this neighbourhood. According to the UN report this border-crossing alone would earn Ntaganda almost 12.000 euro per week. Every time raw materials are carried into Rwanda, Ntaganda closes the whole area. ‘CNDP members operate independently from the official army hierarchy. Most of them only obey their former superiors’, says colonel Mputu Pende with a sigh. He is the chief of the military prosecutor’s office in Goma. ‘We receive threats whenever we try to tackle officers who are involved in the illegal mining exploitation.’
The UN report describes how agents who took action in June 2011 against the smuggling, were disarmed and imprisoned by Ntaganda’s men.