U.N. to Stay Involved in DRC and Liberia

March 31, 2005

U.N. to Stay Involved in DRC and Liberia

On March 30, the United Nations Security Council met and renewed the mandate of the U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, called MONUC. Human rights organization Global Witness says it had asked the council to expand MONUC's mandate, to ensure it can take action to stop what Global Witness calls "the continuing and devastating links between natural resource exploitation and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which continues to threaten regional stability." Global Witness also urged the Security Council to maintain Liberian diamond sanctions, which the Council did on March 29, extending them until June when it will review them again.

The pursuit of the DRC's vast natural resources, including diamonds, gold, coltan, and cassiterite, has motivated much of the recent fighting in eastern DRC, according to many observers' reports. An International Rescue Committee survey estimates 31,000 Congolese die every month from causes connected to conflict, most of them in the unstable east. The mortality rate in eastern Congo is 80% higher than the average rate for sub-Saharan Africa. Government troops, rebel groups and foreign allies have used natural resources to pay for their part of the war.

"The links between natural resources, the smuggling of arms and troop movements has been documented by numerous U.N. Expert Panel reports, yet the Security Council is yet to extend MONUC's mandate to monitor and protect natural resources or put a resource specialist on the panel of experts," says Emily Bild of Global Witness. The group says DRC's transitional government is also unable to control its resources or vast borders and this has led to smuggling of both natural resources and arms. Global Witness called on the Security Council to tackle the illegal export of resources and the trafficking of weapons by monitoring airstrips in eastern and northeastern DRC where persistent reports of arms smuggling and illegal resource exportation remain.

Referring to these issues, the Security Council said in its renewed mandate that it is: "recalling the link between the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources in certain regions and the fuelling of armed conflicts, condemning categorically the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other sources of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and urging all States, especially those in the region including the Democratic Republic of the Congo itself, to take appropriate steps in order to end these illegal activities."

Global Witness says there is a lack of governmental control over diamond-rich areas in Liberia and the U.N. mission is not deployed there. The group told the U.N. it believed regional stability would be jeopardized and progress made thus far by the U.N. would be undermined if sanctions were removed. "The situation is bleak in Liberia and lifting diamond sanctions would jeopardise Liberia's fragile peace," says Alex Yearsley of Global Witness.

"While the National Transitional Government of Liberia has passed laws and regulations to implement the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, there is no capacity to enforce the laws, implement essential diamond controls or prosecute any transgressions," says Yearsley. Global Witness says its investigations in Liberia have uncovered a lack of control of resource-rich areas and border regions and a resurgence of illegal mining and logging activities. It recommended the immediate deployment of U.N. troops to areas rich in natural resources, to known smuggling routes and at Liberia's traditionally porous borders.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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