Gold moved illegally from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is funding terror groups, a think tank has said.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) is currently carrying out research to track illicit financial flows related to resource extraction in DRC and how gold is smuggled through East African countries before finding its way into the global market.
Preliminary findings of the Pretoria based think thank show Al Shabaab and Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) have joined gold smuggling networks.
The think tank said smuggling of DRC’s natural resources is linked to conflict in the region, warning that Al Shabaab remains sufficiently resourced to fund its activities despite efforts by African Union Mission in Somalia and the United Nations to cut off its channels of funding.
Although ISS is expected to finish the research after one month, it has already identified Bukavu, Butembo, Bunia, Ariwara and Kisangani as the main trading towns in eastern DRC for gold smuggling.
Gold from DRC finds its way to Kampala, Nairobi, Bujumbura and Dar es Salaam before being smuggled to other markets.
A researcher in the crime and justice division of ISS, Sebastian Gatimu, said Al Shabaab and ADF-NALU are involved in networks pillaging gold in eastern DRC where control of mineral rich areas drives conflicts.
He said the Bukavu-based Centre for Research and Strategic Studies in Central Africa’s director of research Remy Kasindi said terror groups are funding their activities using proceeds from the sale of gold after infiltrating illicit networks in DRC.
Terror groups are now joining networks benefiting from proceeds of gold with other natural resources exported illegally from the DRC to Dubai and China.
“Al Shabaab’s links to larger international terror groups such as Al Qaeda means its expansion into the DRC poses a significant threat,” said Mr Gatimu.