7 December 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Final Report by Democratic Republic of Congo Experts Group

There was a need to tackle the international networks fuelling the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dinesh Mahtani, Coordinator of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said at Headquarters today.

Answering questions at a press conference on the Group’s final report to the Security Council Sanctions Committee on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, issued as document S/2009/603, Mr. Mahtani said the experts had discussed their findings with the Committee on 18 and 20 November.

The Group of Experts, independent group of external consultants appointed by the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Sanctions Committee, is mandated to monitor implementation of the arms embargo imposed on non-governmental armed groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and, in particular, to investigate the financial and material support such groups enjoy.  By its resolution 1896 of 30 November 2009, the Security Council extended the sanctions regime, as well as the Group’s mandate until 30 November 2010.  The Group operates independently of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), but sometimes uses its vehicles or aircraft.

Appealing to correspondents to quote only from the report, as there had been many misrepresentations arising from an earlier leak of its findings, Mr. Mahtani stressed that the report was not an internal inquiry into MONUC’s activities.  The Economist, for example, had accused United Nations peacekeepers of collusion with the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) in helping some rebel groups they were supposed to be suppressing in return for “cash and access to Congo’s vast mineral wealth”.  That was a complete fabrication, he said.  Other reporting had spoken about the Mission fuelling violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Many Governments had been “slammed” in that reporting, and in one case Belgium had been referred to without any reason, he continued.  The report had indeed spoken about the contradiction in MONUC’s support for the military operation against the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda), but had not drawn any strong conclusions.  The focus of the report was on the local, regional and international networks fuelling the crisis in eastern Congo, he said, adding that it had not been edited or revised since it had been leaked.

He went on to say that the report highlighted, among other things, diaspora support for local FDLR commanders, documenting the overall supreme leadership of the group’s military commanders in Europe, North America and some parts of Africa and its monetary support to them.  The diaspora leaders operated more or less with impunity, although one of them had recently been arrested in Germany.  While the focus was mostly on operations on the ground, the international networks were being overlooked, as was the FDLR’s continuing control over natural resources such as gold and tin.

Referring to another armed group, he said the Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) ‑‑ formerly led by General Laurent Nkunda, who had been arrested in Rwanda ‑‑ was still a rebel outfit, even though it had been formally integrated into the FARDC.  The rebels had changed uniforms but retained their parallel command system of illegal taxation and their involvement in illegal exploitation of minerals.

Asked about the “Faustian split” between MONUC’S mandate to defend civilians and its support for Congolese military operations against the FDLR, which had resulted in some “ugly” atrocities, he said the Mission was thinking about conditional support for battalions.  Its job on the ground was hard enough already, as the FARDC was leaking arms to the group it was supposed to be fighting, and international support networks for the FDLR were sending money via Western Union.

Minerals, including some that were fundamental to the production of many electronics, were trafficked by all armed groups, enabling them to act as spoilers, the Coordinator said, pointing out that the Group of Experts had put forward many of them as candidates for targeted sanctions.  There would also be a certain degree of difficulty on the ground for any peacekeeping operation, but what was going on behind the scenes was “far more serious and deadly”.

Asked whether the report might have an impact on the Government gaining control over mineral resources and improving relations with Rwanda, he said that depended on whether the spoilers could be removed from the system.  The report was clear on Rwanda’s continuing economic partnerships with groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Responding to another question, Mr. Mahtani said the report clearly spelled out that a lot of gold exports coming though Burundi, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania were controlled by armed groups.  One person in Burundi had a monopoly in that trade and all his exports went to the United Arab Emirates.  In Uganda, some companies officially exported gold to the same country, but others, who were already subject to targeted sanctions, were also active.  The Senate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had reported that $1.4 billion worth of gold ‑‑ some 40 tons ‑‑ were trafficked out of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo annually.  It was estimated that millions of dollars from that trade found their way into the coffers of the armed groups.

Asked about the cash sent to FDLR recipients through Western Union, he said Annex 24 on page 131 of the report made references to Felicien Kanyamibwa, Executive-Secretary of RUD-Urunana (Rally for Unity and Democracy), a New Jersey-based FDLR splinter group in the United States.  In addition, a table in the report was drawn from a Government agency spreadsheet showing transfers to Ndondo Shabade, a RUD liaison officer.

Responding to questions about violations of the arms embargo, in particular a Chinese Government notification of an arms delivery to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said the embargo related to armed groups, not the Congolese Government.  Member States delivering arms to the Democratic Republic of the Congo were obliged to notify the Sanctions Committee.  China had done that, but had not provided any details.  Noting that the FARDC was leaking weapons to the same armed groups it was fighting, he said there should be more clarity on deliveries and an improvement in stockpile management.  The Group of Experts had recommended the establishment of an independent task force to investigate the matter.

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For information media • not an official record