The situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(New York, November 05, 2002)
Statement by Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, Permanent Representative of Colombia
I wish at the outset to express our satisfaction at seeing you, Sir, presiding over this post and to wish the members of your delegation success throughout the month of November.
We would also like to thank Ambassador Martin Belinga-Eboutou and his team from the delegation of Cameroon for the important work they did last month.
The delegation of Colombia would like also to thank the Panel of Experts, chaired by Ambassador Kassem, which has fulfilled its task of investigating the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have received from them a report on a complex and demanding topic, which has led to the submission of recommendations that should not be overlooked by the Council.
The accusations made against certain individuals and companies with respect to the illicit appropriation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are causes of deep concern to our delegation because of the effects of this phenomenon on the Congolese people, the continuation of the armed conflict, and peace in Africa.
For that reason, we would like to thank the various countries mentioned in the report that have spoken at this meeting. They have given us an opportunity to hear their views concerning these accusations. Most particularly we would like to welcome the presence of and the statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda.
The Council is accustomed to considering situations of conflict from the perspective of international security, including its political and humanitarian aspects. That may be why we were shocked to hear the experts' statement that the economic ambitions of certain elite networks established in various parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and connected to international criminal organizations offer the best explanation for the continuation of armed conflict in that country.
We know, of course, that in all wars there are always those, such as arms traffickers or unscrupulous bankers, who profit from the suffering of a large number of people. But if our understanding of the report is correct, in the case of the Congo, plundering has become the main reason for the continuation of the war.
We are even more concerned by the assertion that this criminal undertaking is being encouraged by economic agents located within the country, even following the withdrawal of the foreign troops that had been there.
For us, this assessment is a call to speedy and effective action on the part of the Security Council and, in keeping with the recommendations made in the report, my country would like to note three possible courses of action. First, we must strengthen the institutional capacity of the Congolese State, because its weakness and, indeed, its absence in many parts of the country, particularly in the eastern provinces, have led the aforementioned elite networks - which have economic, political and military power - to fill the resulting vacuum by engaging in the acquisition of State enterprises and the collection of taxes and customs duties, inter alia. This is where the plundering begins, and it must be stopped.
Secondly, the other countries whose nationals and companies have been denounced by the Panel of Experts must be called on to take energetic action to investigate these accusations within a reasonable time frame. We believe that in this respect, legal action and the punishment of those responsible for the illicit exploitation of the resources of the Congo are factors that contribute to the peace process.
In the grey area between what is legal and what is illegal in situations of conflict, frequently we find companies that appear to be engaging in transactions that are legal, when, in fact, they are not legal at all, and often they are involved in a money-laundering system. In addition, the accusations contained in the report may contribute to efforts to do away with impunity, which will be a decisive factor if reconciliation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is to take place.
The nationality of an individual or business cannot be used to evade responsibility for acts that the international community wishes to sanction.
Thirdly and lastly, my delegation believes that we should consider the recommendation of the experts that we draw up a list of individuals whose travel and access to financial markets should be restricted, as well as of companies or commercial enterprises whose financial access should also be restricted because of their participation in the illicit exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The function of the Council in the maintenance of international peace and security requires that once we have committed the efforts of the United Nations to the restoration of peace in areas of conflict, as we have done through the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), then we must do our utmost to ensure that there will be a sustainable and lasting peace. In the case of the Congo, this means returning to its population and to its Government access to the resources that have been wrested from them by the war.