The most significant event of the year was the military defeat of the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its flight to Rwanda and Uganda. The Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo documented human rights abuses by M23 during 2013 and confirmed that M23 received various forms of support from Rwandan territory, including recruitment, troop reinforcement, ammunition deliveries and fire support. At the time of writing the present report, the Group had received credible information that sanctioned M23 leaders were moving freely in Uganda and that M23 continued to recruit in Rwanda.
The victory of the Congolese armed forces (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo — FARDC) over M23, which was supported by the Force Intervention Brigade of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has sent a strong message to other armed groups in the eastern part of the country. While some of these groups have become more aggressive or have adopted defensive postures for fear of being attacked by FARDC and the Brigade, several other armed groups have started to surrender and expressed willingness to integrate into the Congolese army and police. Numerous armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo — particularly the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, the Allied Democratic Forces and Kata Katanga — continue to pose a threat to security. These groups are responsible for grave human rights abuses and massive displacement.
Many armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have derived funding from the production of and trade in natural resources. With respect to gold, the Group notes that many mining sites are in post-conflict areas, but that production from these areas is blended with production from conflict areas, particularly in the larger trading towns in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the transit countries of Burundi, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The lack of transparency in the gold trade makes it difficult to distinguish conflict gold from conflict-free gold. The Group estimates that 98 per cent of the gold produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is smuggled out of the country and that nearly all of the gold traded in Uganda — the main transit country for Congolese gold — is illegally exported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a result, the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda are losing millions of dollars annually in tax revenue and tolerating a system that is financing armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
While initiatives by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region have advanced the validation of mining sites and improved adherence to conflict-free and child labour-free international standards, armed groups and FARDC continue to control many mining sites and to profit from mining and the minerals trade. During 2013, minerals — particularly tin, tungsten and tantalum — continued to be smuggled from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through neighbouring countries, undermining the credibility and progress of international certification and traceability mechanisms. The Group investigated the widespread killing of elephants for ivory in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, an activity that finances armed groups and criminal networks in the region.
In accordance with its mandate, the Group also documented serious violations of international humanitarian law, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, summary executions, sexual violence and the targeting of civilian populations. While armed groups carried out many of these crimes, the Group also identified FARDC as a party to numerous violations.