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Security Council debates measures on illegal exploitation of natural resources in DR of Congo

Security Council debates measures on illegal exploitation of natural resources in DR of Congo

The time had come to take decisive action to halt the exploitation of the resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had become the means for sustaining the conflict, the chairman of a panel of experts told the United Nations Security Council today at the outset of a daylong debate on the issue.

Mahmoud Kaseem, Chairman of the Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the Council on the Panels' recent report, stressing that in their work, the experts had never lost sight of the need to integrate their efforts into the broader thrust of the peace process.

The implementation of the experts' recommendations and the implementation of the ceasefire should be seen as complementary. The results of the Panel's findings highlighted the fact that the ceasefire agreement did not address the issue of the economic profits derived from the exploitation of the natural resources.

In its report, the six-member Panel said that the effective collapse of State institutions and structures of the DRC had resulted in continuing and systematic exploitation of its natural resources by various predatory groups. The Panel stressed the need to formulate a plan of action to rebuild State institutions in the country, recommending that such action be linked to an international conference on peace and development in the Great Lakes region. It also called for a moratorium on the purchase and importing of precious products such as coltan, diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, timber and coffee originating in areas where foreign troops are present, as well as in territories under the control of rebel groups.

Addressing the Council today, Mr. Kaseem said a lack of follow-up on the recommendations of the experts would send a message to traffickers and profiteers that they could continue their activities with impunity. He emphasized that a monitoring body would reduce the powerful incentive to continue the war, noting that in the Panel's view a moratorium on selected products would not significantly impact the Congolese people. He said the Council would have to decide whether a moratorium should be compulsory or voluntary.

The Panel also underscored the importance of disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration being undertaken by the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and called for the parties concerned to assume the primary responsibility for dealing with security concerns, Mr. Kaseem said. His statement was followed by an intensive debate, in which representatives of some 20 countries took part, including the Foreign Ministers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Tanzania, and an adviser to the President of Rwanda.