Congo, Democratic Republic of the (Tier 3)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of this trafficking is internal, and while much of it is perpetrated by armed groups and rogue elements of government forces outside government control in the country's unstable eastern provinces, incidents of trafficking occur throughout all 11 provinces. A significant number of unlicensed Congolese artisanal miners – men and boys – are exploited in situations of debt bondage by businessmen and supply dealers from whom they acquire cash advances, tools, food, and other provisions at inflated prices, and to whom they must sell the mined minerals at prices below the market value. The miners are forced to continue to work to repay constantly accumulating debts that are virtually impossible to repay. Throughout the year, in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Katanga Provinces, armed groups – such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – and Congolese national army (FARDC) troops routinely used threats and coercion to force men and children to mine for minerals, turn over their mineral production, pay illegal "taxes," or carry looted goods from mining villages. There were reports that, following the government's September 2010 order attempting to suspend all mining activities in the three eastern provinces, the military's control of the mines intensified and that some FARDC elements increased their use of forced labor in the mines, though FARDC spokesmen repeatedly denied such allegations. In January 2011, for example, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) reported that the Commander of the 21st Sector of the FARDC was using forced child labor in the mines located in Bisiye (North Kivu Province).

Congolese girls are forcibly prostituted in tent- or hut-based brothels or informal camps – including in markets and mining areas – by loosely organized networks, gangs, and brothel operators. Congolese women and children are exploited within the country in conditions of domestic servitude and migrate to Angola, South Africa, Republic of the Congo, as well as East African, Middle Eastern, and European nations, where some are exploited in forced prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced agricultural labor. Chinese women and girls in Kinshasa reportedly work in Chinese-owned massage centers, where some were likely subjected to forced prostitution; Congolese police identified 11 trafficked Chinese women in forced prostitution in a karaoke bar in Kinshasa during the reporting period. Some members of Batwa, or pygmy groups, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in agriculture, mining, and domestic service throughout the DRC.

Indigenous and foreign armed militia groups, notably the FDLR, Patriotes Resistants Congolais (PARECO), various local militia (Mai-Mai), the Alliance des patriots pour un Congo libre et souverain (APCLS), and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), continued to abduct and forcibly recruit Congolese men, women, and children to bolster their ranks and serve as laborers, porters, domestics, combatants, and sex slaves. For example, between July 30 and August 2, 2010, a coalition of the FDLR, Mai Mai Cheka, and combatants lead by Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, a former member of both the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) – a former Congolese rebel group – and the FARDC, abducted 116 civilians from 13 villages in Walikale area and subjected them to forced labor. Between January and September 2010, the LRA violently abducted more than 279 Congolese citizens, including 184 children, in and near Orientale Province; some of these abductees were later taken to southern Sudan or Central African Republic. Likewise, abducted Sudanese and Central African citizens experienced conditions of forced labor and sexual servitude at the hands of the LRA after being forcibly taken to the DRC.

In 2010, the FARDC actively recruited, at times through force, men and children for use as combatants, escorts, and porters. From September to December 2010, for example, there were 121 confirmed cases of unlawful child soldier recruitment attributed to loosely integrated ex-CNDP elements of the FARDC, particularly those commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, and Colonel Baudouin Ngaruye. In mid-2010, ex-CNDP elements under the control of these FARDC commanders recruited school children in Masisi and Rutshuru territories (North Kivu) with offers of $50; these forces reportedly demanded that teachers and headmasters provide them with lists of children formerly associated with armed groups who had been reunified with their families. An unspecified number of children recruited by the CNDP prior to its incorporation into the Congolese military remain within integrated FARDC units and have not been demobilized. In December 2010, the UN Security Council imposed travel bans and asset freezes on FARDC Colonel Innocent Zimurinda for grave violations against children, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, arbitrary executions of child soldiers, refusal to release child soldiers, and denial of humanitarian access for a screening of his troops to remove children from his ranks; MONUSCO documented two cases of unlawful child recruitment by officers reporting to Colonel Zimurinda in August and September 2010.

In addition, FARDC elements pressed hundreds of civilians – men, women, and children, including internally displaced persons and prisoners – into forced labor to carry ammunition, supplies, and looted goods, to fetch water and firewood, to serve as guides and domestic laborers, to mine for minerals, or to construct military facilities and temporary huts. Those who resisted were sometimes killed; others died under the weight of heavy loads. There were unconfirmed reports that policemen and members of other security forces in eastern DRC arrested people arbitrarily in order to extort money from them; those who could not pay were forced to work until they had "earned" their freedom.

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. However, it did demonstrate increased willingness to engage with the international community on certain types of human trafficking occurring within the country. Elements of the national army increasingly perpetrated severe human trafficking abuses during the year, including forcibly recruiting children and using local populations to perform forced labor; some army commanders actively blocked – with complete impunity – efforts to monitor and remove children from their units, obstruction which has persisted for nearly two years. Furthermore, a number of FARDC commanders accused of child soldiering and forced labor abuses in previous reporting periods remained in leadership positions within the army and were not investigated, disciplined in any way, or brought to trial. The FARDC lacked sufficient command and control to compel many commanders to comply with standing orders to release children serving under them or adequately prevent the trafficking violations committed by members of its forces, and ongoing military operations in the eastern part of the country limited the government's attention to human trafficking.

The government did not show evidence of progress in punishing labor or sex trafficking offenders among members of its own armed forces, but took initial steps investigating three suspected sex and labor trafficking cases. Other advances were noted in demobilizing children from fighting factions, including some from the national army. The government failed, however, to provide protective services for the vast majority of trafficking victims or to raise public awareness of human trafficking.

The government continued to lack sufficient financial, technical, and human resources to effectively address trafficking crimes and provide basic levels of security and social services in most parts of the country. The country's criminal and military justice systems, including the police, courts, and prisons, were challenged by the shortage of human, material, and financial resources; there were few functioning courts or secure prisons in the country.

Recommendations for the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Investigate and prosecute military and other law enforcement personnel – irrespective of their rank – accused of unlawfully conscripting child soldiers or using local populations to perform forced labor, including in the mining of minerals, and punish convicted offenders; increase efforts to prosecute and punish, as appropriate, non-military trafficking offenders, who utilize forced labor or control women and children in prostitution; cease the FARDC's tolerance and use of child soldiers, including those forcibly recruited, and demobilize all children from its ranks; allow UN child protection staff unimpeded access to all military sites and regroupement centers to identify and remove children; as was the case with the recent integration of the Federal Republican Forces (FRF), continue to ensure that armed groups integrated into the FARDC are vetted for the presence of child soldiers and all associated children removed and demobilized; adopt an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children by the FARDC, including by newly integrated elements; develop a legislative proposal to comprehensively address all forms of human trafficking, including labor trafficking; in partnership with NGOs or religious entities, ensure the provision of short-term protective services to child trafficking victims; and take steps to raise awareness about human trafficking among the general population.


The government made modest progress in investigating suspected trafficking offenses during the reporting period, but failed to convict and punish trafficking offenders. The government's judicial writ did not cover many areas of the country in which human trafficking occurs, and it remained hamstrung by a critical shortage of magistrates, clerks, and lawyers. The Ministry of Justice was hampered in its overall judicial efforts, including the prosecution of trafficking cases, due to its very small budget of $67 million – slightly less than one percent of the national budget – for 2010-2011. Corrupt officials allegedly embezzled meager financial resources from government agencies, further complicating the government's efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement training, capacity building, or victim assistance. Existing laws do not prohibit all forms of labor trafficking; however, the July 2006 sexual violence statute, Law 6/018, specifically prohibits sexual slavery, sex trafficking, child and forced prostitution, and pimping, prescribing penalties for these offenses of three months' to 20 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government has not applied this law to suspected trafficking cases. The Child Protection Code (Law 09/001) also prohibits and prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment for sexual slavery, child trafficking, child commercial sexual exploitation, and the enlistment of children into the armed forces; it cannot be fully implemented, however, due to the continued absence of necessary decrees from several ministries and a lack of a funding allotment issued by the Ministry of Finance. In July 2010, the government appointed 1,000 of the 2,000 new magistrates that were recruited during the previous reporting period; most began hearing cases, but worked under difficult conditions with few resources. In an effort to further protect children, in January 2011, the prime minister signed a bylaw implementing the creation of juvenile courts specifically focused on children who have suffered violence and abuse or are in conflict with the law. The first such court, opened in Lubumbashi in March 2010, heard 82 cases of children victimized by violence and abuse in its first six months of operation; it is unknown whether any of these cases constituted child trafficking. Additional courts were established in Kinshasa and Bandundu in early 2011.

The government investigated at least three cases of transnational trafficking during the year and apprehended two suspected traffickers. In August 2010, police in Kamako (Kasai Occidental Province) arrested a Congolese man on suspicion of trafficking 35 girls over a 12-month period from DRC to Angola, where he sold each to policemen for amounts between $80 and $100. Though police transferred the suspect to the court at Tshikapa for prosecution, he subsequently escaped from prison and is suspected to have returned to Angola. In February 2011, police arrested a second alleged child trafficker in Kamako as he prepared to transport two 12-year-old girls to Angola. During an initial hearing in Tshikapa, he admitted both to his participation in a child trafficking network in Kamako and to previously selling two other girls in Angola for $600 each; it is unknown whether judicial proceedings transpired in this case. In November 2010, the Congolese National Police (PNC) responded in partnership with Chinese officials in an operation that attempted the rescue of 11 Chinese women allegedly forced into prostitution in a karaoke bar in Kinshasa after being promised jobs in Paris; two Chinese nationals suspected of human trafficking were reportedly detained during the operation and subsequently deported. Bedi Mubuli Engangela (a.k.a. Colonel 106), a former Mai-Mai commander suspected of insurrection and war crimes, including the conscription of children, remains in detention at Malaka Prison in Kinshasa; as in the previous reporting period, the court continues to await the conclusion of the investigation before setting a trial date. The Congolese woman accused of child sex trafficking, whose case was transferred to a Bukavu court for prosecution in February 2010, escaped from the court before her case came to trial.

Impunity for the commission of trafficking crimes by the security forces remained acute; the government made no efforts to hold suspected trafficking offenders within its security forces accountable for the use of civilians for forced labor or the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. There was no evidence of disciplinary, investigative, or legal action taken by authorities, either during the reporting period or in recent years, following the commission of such abuses. Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Pierre Biyoyo, formerly of the Mudundu-40 armed group and the first person convicted by Congolese courts of conscripting children, has not been re-apprehended since his escape from prison in June 2006 and is currently serving as the Commander of FARDC's Sector 31 of the Amani Leo campaign in Walungu, South Kivu. "Captain Gaston," an armed group commander allegedly responsible for the mid-2006 murder of an NGO child protection advocate attempting to identify and remove child soldiers, remained at large in Kitchanga, North Kivu during the reporting period; his January 2007 arrest warrant has not been executed and, after being promoted by the FARDC to the rank of major, he is leading a FARDC battalion between Ngungu and Karuba.


Elements of the governmental security forces continued to victimize, rather than protect, local populations during the reporting period. Although the government assisted in the identification and demobilization of child soldiers, it offered minimal protection to other types of trafficking victims; NGOs provided nearly all of the limited shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services available to trafficking victims. It is unknown whether the government provided any services to the child victims identified in Kamako in 2010. The government lacked procedures for proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups or referring victims to protective services. Although the national government did not address forced labor in the mining sector, provincial Ministries of Education in Orientale, Kasai-Oriental, and Katanga coordinated with two international NGOs during the first half of the reporting period to reintegrate children working in mines into the formal education system. Katanga's provincial Ministry of Interior continued to provide funding for the two Kasapa residential "welcome centers" in Lubumbashi to provide 206 street children, including trafficking victims, with protective services and educational programming; the center for girls provided care to an unknown number of children engaged in street prostitution in 2010. Though government officials recognized the growing problem of child prostitution in the country, they took no concrete action against it. The government did not show evidence of encouraging victims to assist in investigations against their traffickers. It offered no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution; there were, however, few foreign trafficking victims identified within the DRC in 2010 and the government has consistently allowed for the safe repatriation of foreign child soldiers in cooperation with MONUSCO.

Under the National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Plan, all ex-combatants, including child soldiers, pass through a common process during which they disarm and receive information about military and civilian reintegration options. During this process, the National Demobilization Agency (UEPN-DDR), in cooperation with MONUSCO and UNICEF, separated and transported any identified children to NGO-run centers for temporary housing and vocational training; according to MONUSCO, 1,656 child soldiers, some of whom may have been trafficking victims, were rescued from armed groups through this process in 2010, including 130 from the FARDC. All reintegrated child soldiers remain highly vulnerable to re-recruitment. In a positive development, FARDC commanders proactively requested assistance in February 2010 from MONUSCO's Child Protection Section in demobilizing children associated with the FRF – estimated to comprise 40 percent of the armed group – prior to the group's integration into the FARDC.

While the FARDC high command was generally supportive of MONUSCO's efforts to remove children from its forces during the reporting period, it lacked sufficient command and control to compel many FARDC commanders to comply with standing orders to release their child soldiers, or to prevent ground troops from recruiting additional children or subjecting local populations to forced labor. Certain FARDC commanders actively blocked efforts by MONUSCO to separate children from their ranks and some FARDC elements continued to harass, arrest, and physically mistreat children formerly associated with armed groups. For example, Colonel Gwigwi Busogi, commander of the FARDC's 24th Sector in Kalehe (South Kivu) for the first half of the reporting period, continued to use children and systematically obstructed verification and separation efforts, including by hiding associated children; between May and August 2010, MONUSCO's Child Protection Section documented 15 cases of children used as soldiers by senior officers under Gwigwi's command. In the framework of Amani Leo operations, UN staff conducted over 50 screenings in 2010 to identify child soldiers among FARDC troops, resulting in only five children being separated. In spite of senior officers' willingness for the screenings, only a small percentage of units were made available by the immediate commanders for screening, highlighting the lack of control and command present in the FARDC. During the reporting period, the FARDC occasionally detained demobilized child soldiers on charges of membership in illegal armed groups and interrogated them for information.


The government made no significant efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. While the country has an inter-ministerial body focused on human rights, there is a lack of coordination of anti-trafficking efforts at the national level. Although the National Ministry of Labor remained responsible for inspecting worksites for child labor and it employed 160 inspectors nationwide, including 10 in the mining region of Katanga Province, the ministry neither conducted any forced child labor investigations nor identified any cases of forced child labor in 2010 and had no system to track child labor complaints; inspectors often lacked means of transportation or resources to carry out their work. In July 2010, the Minister of Labor issued a decree nominating members to serve on the Permanent Secretariat of the National Committee Against the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which would oversee the committee's work; neither body took any known action against child labor during the reporting period. Provincial Worst Forms of Child Labor Committees – comprised of staff from various provincial ministries and community members – were established in Katanga, Kasai-Oriental, and Orientale (Ituri District) Provinces. While these committees reportedly developed annual work plans for 2010, it is unknown what action they took, if any, to implement these plans. In the first half of the reporting period, the Provincial Ministries of Education in Orientale, Kasai-Oriental, and Katanga worked closely with two international NGOs in implementing projects to reinsert over 13,000 children working in mines into the formal education system. The government did not take any known measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts.

During the year, the Ministry of Defense publicly maintained its adherence to its "zero tolerance" policy regarding the recruitment of children and refused to engage in discussion regarding children used by government forces, claiming that rebel groups were the sole perpetrators of these crimes. While the government took no formal action committing to a UN-sponsored action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers during the reporting period, many levels of the government were engaged in discussions about the UN plan. In December 2010, the FARDC published a new Code of Conduct to guide the actions of its forces; several articles in the code prohibit soldiers' perpetration of human trafficking crimes. In March 2011, FARDC staff held a three-day seminar to raise awareness of 50 army officers regarding the new code of conduct.


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