Global Policy Forum

UN Warns It Will Enforce


By Barbara Crossette

New York Times
April 19, 2000

United Nations - The Security Council today put on notice any country or leader breaking international sanctions by trading with a rebel movement in Angola that has sustained itself by selling diamonds and smuggling weapons and oil.

Increasingly tighter trade sanctions have been imposed on the Angolan rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, and his Unita movement since 1993, a year after he refused to accept losing an election. But the sanctions have been consistently violated by Mr. Savimbi and a circle of compliant nations or individuals, including diamond traders in Belgium, the international center of the diamond trade. Meanwhile, the Angola civil war, now in its third decade, has killed a million people and driven three million more from their homes.

In the next six months, international monitors will collect information on sanctions violators, building on a tough report last month from an unusual investigative panel set up by a Security Council sanctions committee. In November, when the results of the monitoring and other evidence is assembled, those who are found to have violated international embargoes could be subject to sanctions themselves.

The report from the Angola sanctions committee's investigative panel, set up by the Canadian ambassador, Robert Fowler, named not only diamond merchants in Belgium, but also arms brokers in South Africa, weapons suppliers in Bulgaria and African leaders who let their countries be used as deal-making centers, transshipment points or refuges, in exchange for diamonds. The specificity of the accusations, a break with the usual masking of reported culprits in United Nations documents, raised outrage in Africa, particularly French-speaking Africa, and in Europe. Today, France's representative, Jean-David Levitte, said new sanctions against nations that have supposedly violated the standing sanctions "does not in this connection appear to us to provide a real solution."

But a measure of the success of the ploy, diplomats said today, was the extent to which countries suddenly in the spotlight had scrambled to reply to accusations and, in some cases, to curtail illegal trading. Representatives of Belgium, Bulgaria and Burkina Faso -- whose president, Blaise Compaore, was one of two named in the sanctions committee's report, along with President Gnassingbe Eydadema of Togo -- all defended their countries in the Security Council debate that preceded the vote today. They rebutted some accusations. But all three representatives, and others who spoke, lauded the committee's effort and pledged to cooperate in further investigations. Some reported establishing panels to enforce the sanctions.

The council resolution today was also proposed by Canada, which holds the council presidency this month, and was extensively debated before members finally approved it, 15 to 0. Diplomats expect the debate to reopen in the fall. Canada, which has been a leader in trying to strengthen council resolutions generally, announced that it would put financial support behind the efforts to enforce sanctions against Unita. Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, who has been presiding over council sessions this week, said his country would provide $100,000 to help pay for monitoring and would give technical and financial assistance to the countries of the Southern African Development Community to support their efforts to police the embargo. The resolution leans heavily on those nations to be more vigilant and take action.

Mr. Axworthy also said Canada would sponsor a conference to study pinpointing more accurately the source of rough diamonds and their paths to market. In speaking to the council about Canada's intent in pressing for efficient sanctions in Angola, Mr. Axworthy said that "if successful, these measures could serve as a template for focused action against belligerents in other conflict situations."

"The panel's efforts have highlighted the reality and the impact of new war economies -- the nexus between parties to armed violence, the exploitation of people and resources and the commercial interests that profit from it," he said. "In a growing number of conflict situations, economic agendas coexist with political and military goals in the perpetuation of violence and the victimization of people."

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