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Trafficking in illicit arms in DR Congo is a 'genuine threat' to peace: UN team

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UN News Centre - July 21, 2006

Small arms Documenting repeated violations of the Security Council's arms embargo against the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a team of experts appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned today that illicit trafficking represents a genuine threat" to peace and called for close cooperation with the UN mission in the country to address the problem, particularly in the run-up to the 30 July elections.

"Internal trafficking in arms and ammunition through the illegal appropriations or diversions mentioned in various independent reports constitutes a genuine threat to the peace process," states the 57-page report.

"Furthermore, persistent problems with border porosity, continued lack of air space surveillance and poorly monitored financial flows have created a permissive environment for embargo violations."

The Group goes on to emphasize that close cooperation between the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), the European Union-led peacekeeping force and the DRC's armed forces (FARDC) will be essential to deter these threats, especially during the voting period after the elections."

Another key recommendation is that all arms held or imported by the DRC, including those of the integrated armed forces' brigades and those collected under various disarmament programmes, should be registered and marked, and such a system should be supported by the world community.

The Group also recommends that the international community support the FARDC in establishing an accurate database on all their military materiel and that military personnel responsible for these databases will be accountable for any loss or theft that occurs."

The report noted that air transport is the main conduit for arms and ammunition in the Great Lakes countries and recommended that the international community, if it hasn't already done so, must declare that the illicit transportation of arms by air is an offence and decide that it should be combated as such."

It also highlighted the diversion of natural resources to fund embargo violations, adding it had presented "extensive evidence proving the linkage between the mismanagement of mineral concessions" and such funding, and noting "system-wide weaknesses" that need to be fixed to prevent this.

One of the key recommendations put forward to better protect and regulate the DRC's trade in natural resources should be to encourage the Government to seek international assistance to develop a "natural resources control system."

The Group recommended that for a period of one year, the Security Council declare all illegal exploration, exploitation and commerce with the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be a sanctionable act."

The five-member Group of Experts is composed of specialists in arms trafficking, finance, aviation, customs and border control and recently completed seven weeks of field investigation before submitting its latest report to the Council, listing detailed violations and also a raft of recommendations.

DRC's upcoming election will involve an electorate of 25.5 million voters casting ballots in some 50,000 polling stations for some 33 presidential, over 9,000 national legislative and over 10,000 provincial assembly candidates. It is their first chance to choose their own government in 45 years.


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