Congo, Dem. Rep.
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    Profile

    Congo, Dem. Rep.

    Capital

    Kinshasa

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 50,400.75 million

    Income group

    Low income

    Population

    86,790,567

    Area

    2,344,860 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    7.75

    Criminality score

    1st of 193 countries

    1st of 54 countries in Africa

    1st of 11 countries in Central Africa

    Criminal market

    6.50

    Human trafficking

    7.00

    Human smuggling

    5.50

    Arms trafficking

    9.00

    Flora crimes

    8.50

    Fauna crimes

    8.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    9.00

    Heroin trade

    4.00

    Cocaine trade

    4.50

    Cannabis trade

    7.00

    Synthetic drug trade

    2.50

    Criminal actors

    9.00

    Mafia-style groups

    9.00

    Criminal networks

    9.00

    State-embedded actors

    9.00

    Foreign actors

    9.00

    2.29

    Resilience score

    181st of 193 countries

    48th of 54 countries in Africa

    8th of 11 countries in Central Africa

    Political leadership and governance

    1.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    1.00

    International cooperation

    4.00

    National policies and laws

    3.00

    Judicial system and detention

    2.50

    Law enforcement

    1.50

    Territorial integrity

    2.00

    Anti-money laundering

    2.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    1.50

    Victim and witness support

    2.00

    Prevention

    2.00

    Non-state actors

    5.00

    2.29 9.00 6.50 2.29 9.00 6.50

    2.29

    Resilience score

    181st of 193 countries

    48th of 54 countries in Africa

    8th of 11 countries in Central Africa

    Political leadership and governance

    1.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    1.00

    International cooperation

    4.00

    National policies and laws

    3.00

    Judicial system and detention

    2.50

    Law enforcement

    1.50

    Territorial integrity

    2.00

    Anti-money laundering

    2.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    1.50

    Victim and witness support

    2.00

    Prevention

    2.00

    Non-state actors

    5.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Human trafficking in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is widespread and affects large segments of the Congolese population. Most trafficking occurs internally and takes the form of forced prostitution or child recruitment into armed groups. Despite being a source, transit and destination country for trafficking, detection remains difficult due to poor living standards and widespread human rights violations.

    Rampant conflict, violence and displacement in the DRC render human smuggling a crucial means of aiding vulnerable migrants in moving both through the country and abroad. However, human smuggling is not a common or lucrative trade, and the professional smugglers who do operate are often South African or Zimbabwean. The smuggling of Congolese migrants to Europe has increased in recent years among wealthier migrants, who are able to pay higher prices to smugglers.

    Trade

    Armed conflict in the DRC and its neighbouring states, combined with a porous border, has exacerbated arms trafficking in the country. The expansion of both local and foreign rebel groups has increased demand for illicit arms and ammunition trafficking, particularly between the DRC and the Central African Republic. Weapon ownership is high in the DRC, running into the hundreds of thousands. Moreover, government officials allegedly supply armed groups with weapons, meaning weapons are being diverted into illicit circulation. Despite knowledge of the problem, various governments worldwide continue to supply arms to the DRC.

    Environment

    The DRC is home to the largest tropical forest in Africa, but has suffered significant tree cover loss over the past decades. It is a country of origin for illicit high-value timber trafficked globally and generating significant income for criminal actors. Corruption is widespread in the timber supply chain, especially with the industrial logging concessions given to Chinese companies that engage in overexploitation, document fraud and logging outside of permitted areas. In 2014, almost 90% of logging activities were illegal in the country, and while much of the logging is carried out by large international companies, informal small-scale logging operations supply domestic markets. The DRC also plays a major role in the global illicit ivory supply chain, although stricter law enforcement policies have driven the market underground. Despite having its licence quota for pangolin scales suspended pending compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the DRC remains a logistical hub for pangolin scales, with seizures amounting to 16 tonnes in 2019. Certain species of great apes and monkeys are threatened by illegal bushmeat hunting, while armed groups and the military engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, often resulting in high levels of violence.

    The DRC has an abundance of non-renewable resources, creating large criminal markets. As a source country of gold, the illicit trade is widespread in the DRC with both pro-government and rebel militias profiting from the market. Diamonds are also extracted illegally and trafficked abroad. The UN Security Council reported that fraudulent documents were used to export gold to the United Arab Emirates, the country’s main recipient of illicit gold. The DRC is also a source country for the so-called ‘conflict materials’ of tin, tungsten and tantalum. The latter illegal trade allegedly exploits child labour and sustains armed groups within the country, driving levels of violence up, including state-sponsored violence. Notably, the minerals mined are mostly purchased by China-based companies.

    Drugs

    The DRC serves as a transit country for heroin trafficked between eastern and southern regions of Africa into Europe. Heroin is primarily trafficked through Kinshasa’s N’djili International Airport, the port of Matadi and the ferry crossing between Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo. Domestic heroin consumption in the DRC is rising rapidly. The DRC is also a transit country for South American cocaine, and authorities have intercepted large shipments making their way to the country. In addition to that, domestic consumption is high, and the highly violent trade flourishes in the capital of Kinshasa.

    The DRC is a destination and source country for cannabis trafficked into neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi. Cannabis consumption in the country is high, while domestic instability, the influence of armed rebel groups in the border regions, and high border porosity enable the cannabis trade to flourish. Conversely, the DRC’s synthetic drug trade is very limited, although very limited methamphetamine consumption does occur.

    Criminal Actors

    Armed groups are especially prevalent in the DRC’s eastern provinces, with more than 100 active in North and South Kivu alone. These groups have expanded due to ethnic polarisation, insecurity and widespread human rights abuses, and they are thought to engage in civilian attacks and various forms of organized crime, especially wildlife crimes. Urban crime gangs have also proliferated in the major cities and often have ties to security force personnel and politicians. There are numerous criminal networks involved in the non-renewable resources market, operating both locally and transnationally in the DRC. These networks often comprise Congolese and foreign security personnel, customs officials, business leaders and politicians cooperating in the illegal export of ivory, pangolin scales and minerals.

    Corruption is rampant, and state-embedded actors at all levels are involved in organized crime. The state military is involved in arms trafficking, facilitating proxy militias to recruit child soldiers, and often carries out extrajudicial killings, rapes and extortion with impunity. Police officials often operate a ‘coop system’ where they resell stolen goods provided by youth gangs. Businesses linked to public figures have been accused of being involved in embezzlement and other corrupt business partnerships, while state officials accept bribes to issue logging permits to unlicensed loggers. The DRC has an international economy, especially in its abundant non-renewable resource markets, where Chinese businesses reportedly wield significant influence, alongside involvement from Lebanese and Indian businesses with close ties to the DRC’s state authorities. Foreign criminal gangs also operate alongside state-embedded actors to facilitate the trafficking of drugs, arms and wildlife, coupled with fraudulent activities in the banking sector.

    Leadership and governance

    Political leadership and governance in the DRC are weak, undermined by the criminal activity of state-embedded actors. The 2018 elections split control of the executive and legislature and the president’s lack of majority means he has very little control over parliament. Conflict and instability in governance are driven by the competition for control over the country’s vast natural resources, particularly in the eastern provinces. Thus, the government is unable to control the security services that are implicated in criminal activity and provide support to rebel groups. The DRC is assessed as one of the states in the world that are the most fragile and vulnerable to conflict. Furthermore, state-owned companies dominate the extractive industries, lacking basic transparency and operating corrupt licensing practices. Although anti-corruption frameworks are in place, implementation and enforcement are woefully absent, and there have been accusations that politicians ran fake anti-corruption campaigns to garner Western support.

    In 2017, the EU announced sanctions against eight senior DRC government and security officials implicated in human-rights abuses, but since President Tshisekedi took office in 2019, he has ended the self-isolation policy and re-established good relations with the UN and the EU. He resurrected a regional platform for dialogue with neighbouring countries and the US has confirmed its support for a new anti-corruption agency. The DRC is party to a number of international treaties pertaining to organized crime. The country has legislated against organized crime, it has aimed to implement the Rome Statute and it has introduced a strategy against wildlife crimes. Regulations have also tightened in the extractive industries. However, the implementation of these laws is very poor and extortion practices are widespread, with the country falling well below the global average on rule-of-law markers.

    Criminal justice and security

    The judicial system is underfinanced, overburdened and lacks basic resources and training. Courts primarily exist in urban areas and most of the population does not have access to judicial services. Corruption and political interference are widespread, and the government has repeatedly used the judicial system to target its political opponents. The police forces are dysfunctional and ineffective, even in major cities and the capital, while local law enforcement’s capacity to detect narcotics trafficking is inadequate. Corruption is widespread in the police force due to low salaries and poor treatment, meaning police intervention is limited and often involves illicit payments. The rule of law remains tenuous, allowing criminals to act with impunity. Politicization is rising in law enforcement as the army’s high command remains in the Kabila clan’s control, dividing the country’s intelligence services between two centres of power. The DRC has a long and porous border with many unofficial crossing points. As a result of that, contraband flows freely over the border in the eastern regions, particularly the town of Ariwara. An illegal border post was established on the main road between the DRC and Zambia, and the border with the Central African Republic remains entirely uncontrolled.

    Economic and financial environment

    Rampant corruption, weak law enforcement, a dollarized economy and a dominant informal sector render the DRC’s banking system highly vulnerable to money laundering. Under international pressure the DRC increased its anti-money laundering efforts in 2019 and it has since exposed several money laundering scandals. It is estimated that 70% of the country’s economy is informal with political instability making economic reform very difficult. In particular, government attempts to reduce informal artisanal mining have allegedly failed, and at times resulted in violence in both the Kasai and Katanga regions. Pervasive patronage networks, bureaucratic inefficiency and political instability hinder international investment prospects.

    Civil society and social protection

    The government lacks established identification and referral mechanisms for victims of trafficking. However, some victims are referred to NGOs on an ad hoc basis. Most victims have either little recourse to state protection or have little trust in it. While the government has put measures in place to identify and refer child soldiers to international organizations, the same has not been done for victims of sex trafficking. Nevertheless, the DRC government has provided some financial support for the repatriation of Congolese victims of trafficking from abroad. The DRC meets less than a third of the requirements of international mechanisms to help victims exit modern slavery. The country puts some efforts into the prevention of children being recruited as child soldiers through the government’s joint technical working group and curbs child labour in cobalt mines through the Fair Cobalt Alliance, financially backed by international private donors. There has also been an increase in law enforcement activities to end the illicit ivory trade, which has served to push the illicit market deeper underground rather than restrain it.

    Civil-society actors are diverse and focus on both the social and economic development of local communities. There are several international initiatives aiming to improve transparency and working conditions in the DRC’s minerals supply chain and respond to wider issues, such as corruption. However, civil-society organizations are also vulnerable to political manipulation and corruption themselves and have also been split along pro-government and pro-opposition lines. However, relations between government and civil society have improved since 2018 and the election of the new president, with civil-society groups playing a key role in delivering social services and fighting corruption. However, the media landscape is extremely hostile and biased in favour of the government, with recent crackdowns on media critical of the government. Media outlets are often shut down, and in 2018, two journalists were murdered and two more disappeared. While the media landscape has improved slightly under the new president, censorship is still a major characteristic of DRC media.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.