PRESS CONFERENCE ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO EXPERT GROUP REPORT

12 December 2008

PRESS CONFERENCE ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO EXPERT GROUP REPORT

12 December 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO EXPERT GROUP REPORT

The Rwandan Government was complicit in supporting the rebel group Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) of General Laurent Nkunda, while the Congolese Army was collaborating with the Forces démocratique de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO), two non-governmental armed groups operating in east Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a report by the Group of Experts on the country.

At an Headquarters press conference to discuss today’s launch of the report, Coordinator Jason Stearns explained that the Group had been created by Security Council resolution 1533 (2004) to monitor violations of the arms embargo imposed on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Its five members had been appointed by the Secretary-General, were independent and reported directly to the Security Council sanctions committee.

Their report had not been edited for substance prior to publication and had been submitted on 25 November to the sanctions committee, he said.  Following the report, the Council would decide whether to impose a travel ban and assets freeze on those found to have violated the embargo.

Among its conclusions, the Group had identified CNDP-controlled bank accounts in Rwanda, including that of General Nkunda’s wife, and obtained eyewitness testimony and phone records showing “extensive collaboration” between the Congolese army and the FDLR and PARECO, he said.  It had identified three Congolese army commanders guilty of providing ammunition to the FDLR and PARECO. While the Group had not been able to prove to what extent army leaders were involved, it was clear they were aware of the practice and had done nothing to end it.

In addition, he said, there was evidence that Rwandan authorities had provided support to CNDP, and that Rwandan defence force units had deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in support of CNDP.  Further, the Rwandan Government had been found complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, and had facilitated the supply of military uniforms to CNDP.

Rwanda had been used as a base for CNDP fundraising meetings and bank accounts, he said, and the country had allowed CNDP members to pass through its territory during General Nkunda’s offensive in Goma in late October.  Bank transfers and e-mail correspondence showed financial backing to CNDP by a prominent member of the Congolese opposition, and an adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

For its part, FDLR had gained “millions of dollars a year”, mostly through taxing mines and trade routes, he explained.  Congolese and regional traders were complicit in knowingly purchasing gold, cassiterite and coltan from FDLR-controlled zones, and had arranged prefinancing with middle men who had close ties to FDLR commanders.

Regarding technical support to armed groups, the Group had written to web hosts of Internet sites of CNDP and FDLR, informing them that those sites were helping to rally moral and financial support for non-governmental armed groups, contravening the arms embargo.

In the area of arms and aviation, the Group had found that the Congolese Army was the main source of ammunition to armed groups that were both enemy to and allied with it, he said.  It had particularly noted the Army’s lack of stockpile management for weapons and ammunition, and was worried that, despite the large influx of such materiel into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, none of the exporters had complied with the obligation to notify the sanctions committee.

It had obtained financial records, phone logs, land titles and e-mail correspondence to support many of its cases, he said, noting that, in some, private entities had interpreted the Group’s mandate as sufficient legal basis to provide confidential information without a subpoena, an “unprecedented” level of collaboration in the Group’s history. However, regional States had often been reluctant to provide requested documents, and there was a “stark lack of awareness” in implementation of the sanctions regime in the region.

In general, unless States implemented their obligations under resolution 1807 –- which extends the arms embargo and sanctions regime against armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- the Group and the sanctions regime would have “little impact”, he said.

Asked about how the Group concluded the Rwandan Government’s involvement with the CNDP, he said the Group had received evidence from former CNDP soldiers about the involvement of Rwandan officers.  There were more than 12 recorded testimonies of eyewitnesses to such collaboration.  The Group conducted its research on the Rwandan-Congolese border, a CNDP-controlled area, and received testimony from conservation officers, villagers and former CNDP soldiers.

Another case study was undertaken after October fighting in which the CNDP almost took Goma, an eastern city near the Rwandan border, he said, noting that while at one of the border crossings, the Group, by chance, had met with the CNDP’s chief of staff, General Bosco Ntaganda, who was returning from Rwanda to the Congo.  The General was under an International Criminal Court warrant.  Consistent testimony by former CNDP and FDLR officers of all ages and experience showed Congolese army support to FDLR and Rwandan support to the CNDP.  On the CNDP side, many spoke of receiving uniforms bearing the Rwandan flag, which they scraped off with a razor.

He added that, contrary to what had been reported in the press, the Group had not monitored phone calls.  It had obtained phone records showing calls from CNDP leaders to high officials in the Rwandan presidency, not including President Kagame, as well as calls between FDLR and the Congolese army.

Taking another query on whether it was not “rogue” elements of the Rwandan Government collaborating with rebels, he responded that the Group did not speculate on how systematic the described behaviour was.  The Group referred to “Rwandan authorities”.  It was obvious that the Government knew of the behaviour, and he would say the same of the Congolese army’s knowledge of the FDLR.

To another query on the Group’s contact with the web servers, he said the Group could not judge who was violating arms sanctions; it could only inform entities that behaviour could be construed as a violation.

Asked about international traders buying metals from those areas, he said the Group determined there should be greater due diligence in sourcing their minerals.  Many companies were buying from the eastern Congo, and the Group’s point was:  if you are a trader and are knowingly buying from a FDLR-controlled area, then you are complicit in financing an illegal armed group.

As to whether there was a list of individuals it would like to see sanctioned, he said the Group had submitted to the Sanctions Committee a confidential annex on that subject.

As to whether the Group were satisfied with the level of cooperation from Rwandan authorities, and whether it had given them a chance to respond to the charges, he said the Group tried, when possible, to provide a right of reply to Governments, companies and individuals.  He had spoken to Rwandan officials regarding the phone calls.  In the Congolese case, they had responded that, while there might be such by individuals, it was not Government policy.  Both countries said that speaking with someone on the phone did not imply support.

He added that he was not satisfied by level of cooperation of many States including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda.  They had not refused access to places or information, but had been slow to do it -- Burundians and Ugandans equally so.

To a query on how the Group operated, he said the Group operated according to security regulations in place for United Nations staff.  None of the audio or video interviews would be available to the public, as that would compromise the safety of those who granted them.  As for a time after which information might be made available, he suggested asking the Secretariat.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.