U.N. says arms imports keep Congo at war

The key to ending Congo’s civil war and the plunder of its wealth is to break the “vicious cycle” of arms shipments to the African nation, a U.N.-appointed panel said Tuesday. In its final report to the Security Council released Tuesday, the panel called on the international community to focus on halting the flow of illegal arms.

The panel, following a three-year study, gave the council details on groups and individuals involved in arms trafficking, which is funded by the illegal sale of Congo’s diamonds, gold and other riches, The Associated Press reports.

But that information was not released, leaving it up to the council, which will discuss the report on Thursday, to decide whether to make it public, the AP reports. Some U.N. officials worried that identifying traffickers could jeopardize peace efforts.

In October 2002, the panel accused criminal groups linked to the armies of Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Congo of plundering Congo’s riches and called on the Security Council to impose financial restrictions on 29 companies and 54 individuals. It also named over 70 companies in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, which it alleged had violated international standards for business ethics.

The panel said that 119 of the 157 parties it named last year responded to the report, the AP reports. Over the past year, its members met with almost all of them and resolved 61 cases.

But it said the cases against 18 companies weren’t “resolved”—including international diamond giant De Beers and Avient Air and Das Air of Britain—but it didn’t give specifics on why, the AP reports. The panel said it referred the cases to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development “for updating or further investigation.”

Another 38 companies and individuals were referred to governments for investigation, some at the request of the governments themselves.

The Security Council has imposed an arms embargo in areas of eastern Congo where fighting has intensified, and the panel proposed finding a way to implement it and track the arms supply chain from manufacturers to recipients and deter illegal trafficking.

To help ensure that Congo’s resources are legally exploited, it called on the Congolese government to give “serious consideration” to breaking up two “grossly inefficient” state-owned mineral resource enterprises, the copper producer Gecamines and the diamond company MIBA, the AP reports.

The panel also recommended the establishment “a natural resources fund” In an effort to see that Congolese people share in the country’s riches, the AP reports. The fund should be given a portion of the proceeds from the legal exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth and timber resources for schools, hospitals, and other projects, it said.