By Evelyn LeopoldReuters
December 19, 2001
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday extended for six months the life of an investigatory panel that concluded foreign armies and rebel groups were plundering the Congo's minerals and other resources.
But the council did not follow up on recommendations by the panel in November for a moratorium on trade in the Congo's diamond, gold, copper, cobalt, timber and coffee originating from areas where foreign troops are present as well as regions under control of the rebels.
Instead it said that the panel in six months should update its data and analysis and again recommend specific actions that the council could take.
"The Security Council notes with concern that the plundering of the natural resource and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues unabated," said the council in a statement read at a formal meeting.
"The Security Council strongly condemns these activities, which are perpetuating the conflict in the country, impeding the economic developing of the DRC and exacerbating the suffering of its people," the statement said.
The panel's report said the initial motivation for Rwanda and Uganda to intervene in the central African nation was to secure their borders, while Zimbabwean troops came at the request of the Congo government.
But over time the lure of natural resources became "the primary motive" for staying in many areas of the country and perpetuating warfare, it said. "This holds true for both government allies as well as rebel supporters."
All countries mentioned in the report have denied its conclusions vigorously, especially Zimbabwe. But the panel said its joint ventures with Kinshasa appear to benefit Zimbabwean army and government officials as well as some Congolese rather than the general population in either country.
In the report, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and especially South Africa were cited as transit routes for smuggling diamonds, gold and coltan, a mineral used in high-tech products from cell phones to nuclear reactors.
The Congo's civil war, which is gradually subsiding, saw Rwanda and Uganda supporting rebel groups trying to topple the Kinshasa government, which was propped up by troops from Zimbabwe as well as Angola and Namibia.
The main parties have generally honored a cease-fire since last April, but warfare continues among various armed groups in the eastern part of the country.
The panel said Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe as well as the government apparently tolerated some of these conflicts as an excuse to maintain their armies and exploit resources.
In an earlier statement Wednesday, the council expressed concern about troop movements in the eastern Congo.
The United Nations has a peacekeeping force of some 3,200 troops and observers to supervise a cease-fire and the separation of armies.
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