(Adds Kroll analyst comment)
KINSHASA Feb 15 A possible plan by U.S.
President Donald Trump to suspend a rule on "conflict minerals"
could help fund armed groups and contribute to a surge in unrest
in central Africa, regional states said on Wednesday.
Sources told Reuters last week that Trump planned to issue a
directive targeting a Dodd-Frank rule that requires companies to
disclose whether their products contain minerals from war-torn
parts of Africa, including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A leaked draft seen by Reuters calls for the rule to be
suspended for two years.
Competition for Congo's vast mineral resources has fuelled
two decades of conflict in its eastern provinces, including a
1998-2003 regional war that killed millions, most from hunger
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region
(ICGLR), a regional body comprising 12 member states including
Congo, warned that repealing the provision would make it harder
to ensure minerals were conflict free.
"This might ultimately lead to a generalized proliferation
of terrorist groups, trans-boundary money laundry and illicit
financial flows in the region," the ICGLR said in a statement.
The minerals covered by the rule - gold, tin, tantalum and
tungsten - are important components in various electronics,
aviation products and jewellery.
Several international campaign groups have urged Trump to
maintain the provision. Human Rights Watch said last week that
suspending the rule would undermine efforts to eliminate
conflict minerals from supply chains.
Business groups opposed to the measure say it forces
companies to furnish politically charged information and that it
costs too much to trace the source of minerals.
However, some analysts believe scrapping the regulation
could end up hurting U.S. companies if it fuelled instability in
Congo's volatile and mineral-rich North and South Kivu regions.
"Having a better regulated, stable and secure mining
environment in the Kivus is in everyone's interest, including
U.S. firms," said Oliver Stern, an Africa expert at
international risk consultancy Kroll.
The ICGLR acknowledged that the initial roll-out of the law
had imposed a "de facto embargo" as major firms avoided buying
minerals from the region. However, an ICGLR programme to trace
minerals' origins had led to a revival of exports, it said.
(Reporting by Aaron Ross and Ed Cropley; Editing by Edward
McAllister and Susan Thomas)