UN experts recommend ways to maintain arms embargo against DR of Congo rebels

27 January 2005

While noting that the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has 7,200 fewer troops than requested, an expert group probing violations of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council recommends that the operation strictly monitor the airports to reduce illicit air traffic and thus "decrease the means and opportunity for violations of this type."

For its part, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), denounced the attempts of two militias, the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC-L) and the Front for National Integration (FIN), to destabilize Ituri district in the eastern border region abutting Rwanda and Uganda.

In a report to the Council, the Group of Experts said it has found that "more than a lack of State capacity, it is the intertwining of shared interests and objectives on both sides of the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that render the arms embargo subject to abuse."

The panel focused on three primary sectors involved with weapons supplies and logistical support: civil aviation; customs and immigration; and border commerce.

Knowing how the networks involved in these sectors operate in violating the embargo would suggest ways of breaking the links they were using, it says.

"Once arms or related military equipment have entered illegally into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, existing distribution channels supervised by key political and military stakeholders, acting either in their own interest or in the interest of their respective parties, enable further dissemination at the grass-roots level," it says.

The distribution continues no matter whether the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration campaign and the integration into the national army are taking place and the Group is trying to identify the "regional spoilers" linked to political actors in the DRC capital, Kinshasa.

The internal provision of weapons, training and "military sustenance" to renegade members of the national army (FARDC), local defence forces, proxy forces, foreign armed groups and militias maintains a vicious cycle in which the presence of the armed groups are used as an excuse not to build an integrated army, it says.

In turn, "both Rwanda and Uganda maintain security arrangements with leaders of armed groups in the embargoed regions, under the pretext that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has so far failed to disarm rebel forces" constituting threats to their national security, it says.