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Great Lakes Region Discuss Progress On Eliminating Illegal Resources Exploration

by Daniel Sabiiti
11:14 am

Experts and Representatives of members states from ICGLR convened in Kigali.

The 28th Meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Regional Committee against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources has opened in Kigali with member states discussing ways of curbing illegal and criminal activities in the region.

The three-days meeting brought member states including Rwanda which has been a full and active member of the ICGLR family after the endorsement of the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region signed in Nairobi on 15th December 2006.

The Chairperson of the Regional Committee on Natural Resources, Eng. Estanislau Buio, appreciated the Government of Rwanda for its warm welcome to all participants and outlined the recommendations formulated from the previous Regional Committee meeting held in the Uganda in November 2023 and called upon members of the Committee to work towards strengthening conflict prevention mechanisms in the Great Lakes region.

Buio stated that the Regional Committee against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources is a vital organ of the ICGLR, established by the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region and recalled the primary role of the Regional Committee which is to oversee the implementation of the Protocol against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and to monitor the level of implementation of the core protocol and outlined the agenda of the meeting to the Committee members.

Member states will update the Committee on the status of implementation of National Roadmaps for the Six Tools of the Regional Initiative against the illegal exploitation of natural resources in their respective states from the last meeting held in Kampala, Uganda from 27th to 29th November 2023.

The six tools are: having a regional certification mechanism, harmonization of national legislation, regional database on mineral flows,formalization of artisan mining sector, Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) peer learning mechanism, and Whistle-blowing Mechanism (WBM)- as excellent citizen tool to use.

This Initiative was adopted after the leaders noticed the link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the financing of criminals/armed groups in the Great Lakes region.

This Initiative aims at cutting this link for good.

At the closed meeting, Rwandan officials said that there is a political commitment to uproot illegal practices in the region and Rwanda is therefore fully committed to the implementation of the regional initiatives in order to achieve sustainable peace and development.

Rwanda been the second country to launch the ICGLR Certificate on 3T (tin, tungsten, tantalum) exports, is and has fully implemented the ICGLR Mineral Tracking and Certification Scheme to provide for sustainable conflict-free mineral chains in and between Member States,with a view to eliminating support to armed groups that sustain or prolong conflict or engage in serious human rights abuses

“We don’t want our natural resources to finance criminals and armed groups who are abusing human rights across this region. Instead, our minerals should contribute to the well-being of our populations and contribute to the economies of our respective countries,” said Francis Kamanzi, the CEO, Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB).

Kamanzi also reaffirmed that Rwanda supports all efforts toward this goal under the leadership of the ICGLR and specifically the need to work collaboratively with member states to end illegal mining that is used to finance crimes in the region.

The Conference Secretariat and the Audit Committee (which met last week in Musanze district) will update the Regional Committee on a road map for the development of a standard artisanal and small-scale gold tracking system and certification and consider a proposal for a Financial Modelling Tool on artisanal miner or small-scale miner (ASM) formalization in the region.

The Executive Secretary of ICGLR, Ambassador João Samuel Caholo called for compliance by member states to the six tools and adherence to the initiative to enable regional development.

Amb. João Samuel Caholo

“We think that the mineral resources of our region, which are the basis of development elsewhere, can also be the basis of development and stability here,” Caholo said.

Caholo stated that it is concern to note that while the region is potentially rich and could make an impact on the world stage, the region continues to witness unemployment and underdevelopment in general.

“This is why we came here to meet in order to take stock of what is being done in the member states and how we can improve on implementing the initiative on natural resources,” he said.

The experts at the committee meeting will determine what has to be done and each member state will suggest it’s approach that can be shared amongst the region, however creating peace and security for resources exploration in the region will be one of the underlying factors.

The ICGLR Executive Secretary stated that his office would like to especially see the issue of minerals certification determined by experts so as to allow region to know and track every mineral that is being mined in all the member states, where and how it’s being exported, where it is being certified and who has bought it (legally).

“If we do this together, we will get there. All I am asking from member states is commitment,” Caholo said.

Service- Julie Heleina, the Congo Brazzaville Director of the Bureau of Expertise in Mineral Resources Exploration said that her country supports the need to set a clear agenda to monitor and track minerals in the region.

The outcomes of the Regional Committee and experts meeting will be submitted (in a report) to the statutory meetings of the ICGLR- the regional inter-ministerial committee, the ministers of defense, foreign affairs and stakeholders including the donor community, who will compile a report that will be submitted to the Heads of State Summit to take note and guide the ICGLR.

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