There are an estimated 762,900 people in modern slavery in Democratic Republic of the Congo – this is equivalent to 1.13% of the entire populationDecades of political instability and a violent civil war have left many citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) vulnerable to modern slavery. Prolonged conflict has caused the internal displacement of 2.6 million persons (Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs),1 65 percent of whom are in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.2 IDPs are exposed to greater insecurity and are at higher risk of exploitation. 3
Products known to be produced using modern slavery 4
Violent rebellion in Katanga province in early 2014 displaced up to 400,000 people, forcing them to migrate to other towns and provinces to find work.5 Large numbers of men working in mines are trapped in a system of debt bondage,6 having to borrow money from their employers to buy the tools required to work in the mines, as well for food and accommodation.
Forced labour of men and boys in mining and agriculture and the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls are the most prevalent forms of modern slavery in the DRC. The provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, and Katanga are home to significant deposits of gold, tin, coltan and tantalum which are mostly controlled by rebel groups and corrupt army officials.7
Often called ‘Conflict Minerals’, tin, tungsten, gold and tantalum, or coltan, originating from the DRC are used by manufacturers in portable consumer electronics, medical devices and advanced aeronautics.8 320 000 children are estimated to be working in artisanal mines.9
During 2013, armed groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Mayi Mayi Kata Katanga and Mayi Mayi Morgan, as well as elements of the Congolese national army (FARDC), continued to use threats to force men and children to mine for minerals, turn over their mineral production, pay illegal “taxes,” or carry looted goods from mining villages.10
Children are highly vulnerable to recruitment into armed groups, both by abduction or coercion where they are used as porters, cooks, escorts and fighters.11 Ten percent of the world’s 300 000 child soldiers are Congolese, 40 percent of which are girls forced into marriages with rebel fighters.12 Throughout 2013, 163 children, including 22 girls, were rescued from the rebel group Mayi Mayi Bakata Katanga, where they were held as child soldiers.13 Throughout 2014, men, women and children continue to be kidnapped in village raids and held as slaves by militias in eastern DRC.14 In April and May 2014, 267 women and girls suffered sexual violence by armed groups.15 Women and girls are often forced to labour in the mines during the day, and are exploited as sex slaves by militia men at night.16
Exploitation exists outside armed conflict, with children forced to leave the household due to poverty or mistreatment by their parents or because of accusation of witchcraft. This can leave them vulnerable to exploitation.”17
Forced and child marriage is also prevalent, varying from a legal union, to commercial sexual exploitation and rape, with some members of rebel groups claiming women and girls as their wives by raping them.18
|Score||Survivors are supported||Criminal justice||Coordination and accountability||Attitudes, social systems and institutions||Business and government|
As a country in conflict, there are very few functioning basic social services in DRC, with the majority of services implemented by NGOs and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). MONUSCO is the only functioning law enforcement body meaning they have taken on typical government responsibilities.19
Despite having laws in place that criminalise modern slavery, no action is taken against those who used forced labour and abducted civilians for forced labour. There is no evidence of child labour investigations.20 In April 2014, the government launched a three-month basic training course on law enforcement for 335 police officers including the mining police, special police for the protection of women and children and the community police.21 However, the weakness of the judiciary, whose officials are regularly subjected to threats, intimidation and interference when they attempt to investigate or prosecute crimes committed by the military, has meant that modern slavery crimes have gone unpunished.22
During 2014, the government established a national working group to oversee the implementation of a UN backed action plan to end abuses against children by its armed forces.23 The government also works with MONUSCO to ensure the safe repatriation of foreign child soldiers.24 Between April and June 2014, 101 children were demobilised from armed groups by MONUSCO.25 There is no inter-ministerial body to address the trafficking of adults.26
Since 2012, the government has introduced legislation, and tightened requirements for mining and mineral trading companies to ensure the minerals they are exporting to global markets are “conflict free”. The government immediately suspended the license of two Chinese owned mineral export houses operating in North Kivu, highlighting its commitment to enforce this legislation.27
Through the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition, global electronic companies have committed to taking proactive steps to trace their supply chains and ensure they are free from conflict minerals mined in the DRC.28
|Slavery policy||Human rights||State stability||Discrimination||Development|
Despite being a mineral rich nation, the DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country’s political instability, weak infrastructure, lack of basic services and large number of IDPs exacerbate the vulnerability of the Congolese to modern slavery. It is estimated that 3.8 million people died in the DRC between 1998 and 2004 and many more were displaced.29 Armed conflict is the reason for displacement for 90 percent of these persons.30 A peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, have not fully curbed the violence which continues unabated in certain areas.31
The DRC’s poverty and lack of social services, particularly lack of schools in the eastern part of the country, has left many children vulnerable to modern slavery in the mining sector. Targeted by armed groups for their compliance and small bodies, which can reach into the most dangerous parts of the mines, children are easy prey.32 Coupled with limited education, and a severe lack of livelihood options mean many also commit themselves to exploitative work in the mines or join militia groups.
- Scale up the demobilization and reintegration of children in armed conflict.
- In coordination with MONUSCO, strengthen law enforcement throughout the country, particularly in eastern DRC, by providing training to officials and prioritising raising awareness of the illegality of the activities going on in eastern DRC.
- Provide support services including shelters for victims of modern slavery.
- End impunity for officials who break the law, particularly members of the Congolese army.
Companies sourcing minerals from the DRC, including, Nintendo, Canon, Nikon, HTC and Sharp, should:
- Follow the example of Intel, HP, Philips, and Scan disk (among others),33 to take proactive steps to trace supply chains and ensure they are free from conflict minerals.
- Encourage private investment to develop infrastructure and social services, in mining in the eastern provinces of DRC.
“I was back in my village but my neighbour betrayed me. People recognized me and started shouting and abusing me because I was part of the group that looted the village last year. I left without saying goodbye to my parents and went to Commander Nkusi. He welcomed me back in the group without even beating me.”
Former child soldier speaking of the stigma he faced when returning to his village, MONUSCO 2013.
In Child Recruitment by Armed Groups in DRC, From January 2012 to August 2013, (MONUSCO, 2013), p. 13, accessed 08/09/14: monusco.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=DazRcHfpAJo%3d&tabid=10701&mid=13689&language=en-US
See where Democratic Republic of the Congo ranks in Sub-Saharan Africa