SECURITY COUNCIL IS TOLD PEACE IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO NEEDS SOLUTION OF ECONOMIC ISSUES THAT CONTRIBUTED TO CONFLICT

24 October 2002
SC/7547

SECURITY COUNCIL IS TOLD PEACE IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO NEEDS SOLUTION OF ECONOMIC ISSUES THAT CONTRIBUTED TO CONFLICT

24/10/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7547

Security Council

4634th Meeting (PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL IS TOLD PEACE IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO NEEDS

SOLUTION OF ECONOMIC ISSUES THAT CONTRIBUTED TO CONFLICT

Report Received on Illegal Exploitation of Resources; Foreign Minister

Calls for Reparation, Prosecution of Aggressors, Great Lakes Peace Conference

Progress towards peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would not be sustainable unless the economic issues that contributed to armed conflict there were resolved, according to Mahmoud Kassem, the Chairman of the Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation on Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as he addressed the Security Council this afternoon at a meeting to consider the Panel’s final report.

Three distinct elite networks, Mr. Kassem said, had a grip on the country’s economy that extended beyond precious natural resources to encompass territory, fiscal revenues and trade, in general.  Anticipating developments demanded by the international community, the networks now protected their interests, not only through national armies, but also through paramilitary groups, military-backed companies with civilian facades, and foreign soldiers integrated into armed factions.

The Panel, he said, hoped that the resulting report could be used to motivate the parties in the conflict to fully honour their obligations under recently signed agreements in ending illegal exploitation.  The actions that the Panel had recommended, including economic incentives and restrictive measures, were an essential part of what it envisioned to be a holistic and viable peace process.  They would require the systematic and sustained involvement of the international community.

The Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo emphasized  that the Congolese people were the major victims of the situation in that country.  As the Panel rightly pointed out, the war had cause the death of more than

3.5 million Congolese, a direct consequence of the occupation of the territory by Rwanda and Uganda.

To stop the pillaging, he said, the Council must act on the recommendations of the Panel of experts beginning with the first report up until the latest.  He requested the implementation of all the recommendations made by the Panel, particularly the acceleration of the deployment of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the effective demilitarization of Kisangani.

He agreed with most of the recommendations contained in the Panel’s final report, such as the need to organize a peace conference for the Great Lakes region.  He also believed it was necessary to increase the oversight capacity of the United Nations and was open to any suggestions in that regard.  There must also, he said, be reparation and compensation to restore the Congolese people, as well as the prosecution of the authors of the aggression.

Following the two statements, the President of the Council, Martin Belinga-Eboutou (Cameroon), announced that a request had been made that more time be allowed for the study of the report of the Panel of experts.  Members of the Council, he said, had, therefore, agreed that the discussion of the report be postponed.

The meeting, which began at 3:17 p.m., adjourned at 4:04 p.m.

Background

As the Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it had before it a letter dated 15 October 2002 from the Secretary-General, addressed to the President of the Council, transmitting the final report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/2002/1146).

In June 2000, the Council requested the Secretary-General to establish the Panel to follow up on reports and collect information on all activities of illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Panel was also mandated to research and analyse the links between the exploitation of the natural resources and other forms of wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the continuation of the conflict.

The Panel’s first report, issued on 12 April 2001 (document S/2001/357), stated that illegal exploitation of the mineral and forest resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in the form of mass-scale looting, as well as "systematic and systemic exploitation", which required planning and organization. Key individual actors -- on the one hand, including top army commanders and businessmen, and government structures, on the other -- have been the engines of that systematic and systemic exploitation.  The report named functionaries, companies, banks and individuals involved in the exploitation.

The current report notes that the "elite networks" involved in resource exploitation are changing their tactics, as national armies begin withdrawals from the eastern Congo, where a self-financing war economy had been built, centring on mineral exploitation.  The Governments of Rwanda and Zimbabwe, as well as powerful individuals in Uganda, have adopted strategies for maintaining the mechanisms for revenue generation, many of which involve criminal activities, once their troops have departed.

The elite network of Congolese and Zimbabwean political, military and commercial interests seeks to maintain its grip on the main mineral resources -- diamonds, cobalt, copper germanium -- of the government-controlled area.  The network has transferred ownership of at least $5 billion of assets from the State- mining sector to private companies under its control in the past three years, with no compensation or benefit for the State treasury of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the report, the Panel identifies the circles and individuals in the elite network and its strategies for generating revenues, in the State-controlled area, as well as areas controlled by Rwanda and Uganda.  Even with the establishment of an all-inclusive government, control over natural resources would require time and would be possible only within the framework of sound institution-building.  In the interim, it is the view of the Panel that continued monitoring and reporting on illegal exploitation will at least serve to deter these activities.

The most important element in halting that exploitation relates to the political will of those who support, protect and benefit from the networks, the report states.  The Panel does not support the imposition of an embargo or moratorium banning the export of raw materials originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It says that, nevertheless, restrictive measures need to be taken vis-à-vis the role of companies and individuals involved in arms supply and resource plundering.  There was also a need to apply forceful disincentive and incentives.

The report states that an international conference on peace, security, democracy and sustainable development in the Great Lakes region would be an ideal forum at which to address the reorientation of the regional trading system to post-conflict imperatives, and for negotiating the framework of a multilateral agreement to carry it out.

In further recommendations, the Panel calls for institutional reforms, financial and technical measures, and a monitoring process that could report to the Security Council on a regular basis.

The Panel of experts comprises:  Mahmoud Kassem (Egypt), Chairman; Jim Freedman (Canada), Mel Holt (United States), Bruno Schiemsky (Belgium), Moustapha Tall (Senegal).

Chairman of Panel

MAHMOUD KASSEM, Chairman of the Expert Panel, said that since the signing of the Pretoria and Luanda agreements, much progress had been made towards peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  However, success on the political and military front would prove unsustainable unless the economic issues that contributed to prolonging armed conflict were resolved.  Three distinct elite networks had a grip on the country’s economy that extended beyond precious natural resources to encompass territory, fiscal revenues and trade, in general.

In the course of seven months of fieldwork, he said, the Panel had gathered extensive information, first-hand testimony and documentation on the exploitation activities of the networks’ members.  Anticipating developments demanded by the international community, the networks now protected their interests, not only through national armies, but also through paramilitary groups, military-backed companies with civilian facades, and foreign soldiers quietly integrated into armed factions.  The States where those individuals and enterprises were based were also responsible when they took no action, for example, to investigate and prosecute, or to enforce compliance with guidelines for corporate behaviour.

The Panel hoped that the resulting report could be used to motivate the parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fully honour their obligations under recently signed agreements on ending the illegal exploitation, for the aim of promoting peace and stability.  He said the actions that the Panel had recommended, in that regard, were an essential part of what it envisioned to be a holistic and viable peace process. They included incentives, or “peace dividends”, as well as restrictive measures such as travel bans, the freezing of assets, and phased cuts in official development assistance.  The implementation of those recommendations would require the systematic and sustained involvement of the international community.

LEONARD SHE OKITUNDU, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the report of the Panel of experts came at a time when real signs for peace had emerged.  Those new prospects put in play a new dynamic, which pointed to the future and encouraged the people of the region to hope for peace dividends.

Turning to the major conclusions of the group of experts, he noted that the Panel had rightly highlighted the link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources of the country and the armed aggression.  The Panel had broken through previous myths and showed that the presence of Rwandan troops was based on the desire to pursue criminal activities.  He drew the Council’s attention to the fact that Rwanda still had troops in Kisangani, Kivu and Ituri.  He thanked the Panel for exposing the “trickery” of Rwanda.

The report also described the training of people by Rwandan forces in order to maintain pillaging once the Rwandan forces had withdrawn, he said.  The final report was eloquent on the subtle change of tactics used by the perpetrators.  It showed once again that pillaging was a major element of the conflict.  It was the large-scale exploitation, systematic and systemic, that fuelled the armed aggression and occupation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for purely mercantilist purposes.  They had one interest in maintaining war -- a quest for riches.  The economic dimension of the conflict must be the starting point for Council’s reflection of the settlement to the conflict.

He emphasized that the Congolese people were the major victims of the situation in that country.  To stop the pillaging, the Council must act on the recommendations of the Panel of experts beginning with the first report up until the latest.  He requested the implementation of all the recommendations made by the Panel, particularly the acceleration of the deployment of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the effective demilitarization of Kisangani.  Consequences must be imposed on the party that refused to demilitarize Kisangani.

There must also be reparation and compensation to restore the Congolese people and prosecution of the authors of the aggression.  It was also necessary for the Council to examine its conscience and disclose what had been accomplished since the implementation of the recommendations contained in the first report of the Panel. 

As the Panel rightly pointed out, the war had caused the death of more than 3.5 million Congolese, a direct consequence of the occupation of the territory by Rwanda and Uganda.  He agreed with most of the recommendations contained in the Panel’s final report, such as the need to organize a peace conference for the Great Lakes region and the need to benefit from the peace prospects.

He also believed it was necessary to increase the oversight capacity of the United Nations, and said he was open to any suggestions in that regard.  Any terms of reference to establish such a body must be established in consultation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Council might consider establishing a national oversight body.

The peace process, he stressed, must yield peace dividends for the Congolese people, as well as for the people of Rwanda and Uganda.  It was necessary to suspend any type of economic aid until there was true withdrawal of the troops of aggression, and to put an embargo on the transit and export of any natural resources of the Congo.  The question of reparations to the Congolese people was also of the utmost importance.  He reiterated the need to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country.

For information media. Not an official record.