Weeks after delegates first arrived in the Ugandan capital of Kampala for talks aimed at ending the M23 rebellion in eastern Congo, preconditions for the negotiations are just being finalized. But as details about M23-linked gold smuggling from the conflict area underscores, the group maintains an extensive and lucrative network throughout the region, which undermines any hopes that the Kampala process alone will bring about lasting stability.
Most recently, Congo's neighbor, Burundi, has become a transit point for smuggling gold from Congo, according to Enough Project sources. The U.N. Group of Experts also documented in their November 2012 report the links between M23 rebels and gold transported out of the region through Uganda via the border town of Bunagana, which has been under M23 control since July 2012:
M23 has sought financing for its movement through the sale in Kampala of gold which have transited through border posts it controls with Uganda. Former UPDF officer, two Kampala-based businessmen, and M23 cadres reported that M23 attempted to sell gold originating from mines controlled by M23 allies in Walikale and Ituri. These sources reported that M23 first brought to Kampala a shipment of 200 kilograms of gold, and subsequently another lot of 125 kilograms, both transiting through Bunagana.
At current rates, the value of those shipments equates to about $10.8 million and $8.1 million respectively.[view whole blog post ]