DR of Congo: exploitation of natural resources continues 'unabated,' UN panel reports

19 November 2001

Reporting that numerous individuals and institutions continue to get rich by exploiting the natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a group of United Nations experts has recommended imposing a moratorium on the purchase and import of certain precious commodities from that country.

The findings of the group, officially known as the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the DRC, were presented today to the Security Council. After holding closed-door consultations on the report, the Council President, Ambassador Patricia Durrant of Jamaica, told the press that there had been "a useful exchange" with the chairman of the Panel, Ambassador Mahmoud Kassem of Egypt.

Earlier in the day, Ambassador Kassem told a UN press conference that the Panel had originally set out to determine if the exploitation in the DRC was legal or illegal but during the second phase of its fact-finding mission, it discovered that most of the exploitation was illicit. “There may be differences in style and forms of exploitation, but in the end it was illegal,” he said.

According to the report, the web of interests represented by the current beneficiaries has ensured that the war in the DRC remains a self-financing and self-sustaining affair. Not surprisingly, the Panel argues, Congolese people do not figure among the beneficiaries of this unfettered and increasingly systematized exploitation.

The Panel says that the two main underlying causes of the conflict must be addressed in order to end the exploitation of natural resources and establish a lasting peace in the DRC: the decline of the Congolese State and its institutions, leading to a vacuum of authority to safeguard and regulate the country's territory and riches, and the continued security concerns generated by the presence of armed groups in the country's uncontrolled territory, which appear to have been overtaken by the desire to maximize control over expanses of land, the resources found there and the profits derived from them.

In the meantime, the Panel says, a moratorium on trade in precious commodities from the DRC would stem the flow of profits and could also help encourage the finalization and implementation of international technical measures to halt the illicit commerce in such goods, including the regulatory procedures being developed for diamonds under the so-called Kimberley process. A temporary freeze would also give time to States directly or indirectly involved in the conflict to review and pass legislation aimed at prosecuting those trafficking in Congolese resources.

The Panel emphasizes that the burden for resolving the security concerns must first and foremost be assumed by the parties to the conflict itself, including the DRC. In order to help promote a stable environment in which to implement the measures, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), with the cooperation of all the parties, can accelerate the process of disarmament and demobilization.


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