Press Release / Dec. 1, 2004

Conflict resources undermine peacebuilding as war in Congo looms

Thousands of troops are currently massing on the DRC/Rwandan border and a return to major conflict looms.

Rwanda justifies intervention in Eastern DRC by security concerns over Interahamwe rebels based in the country. But there are also important economic motivations behind Rwanda’s actions. Unless the links between resources and conflict can be severed, there will be little chance of lasting peace in the African Great Lakes region.

Despite incontrovertible evidence linking military activities, exploitation of resources such as gold and coltan, and human rights abuses in the DRC, the international community has not yet taken any coherent action to address these issues.

Campaigner Corene Crossin said, “Rwanda has an undeniable economic interest in maintaining military control over Eastern DRC’s rich natural resources. The international community’s failure to address conflict resources means that once again the Great Lakes may be plunged into resource-fuelled war."

Global Witness is calling upon the major international donors to Rwanda and the DRC to put pressure on both countries to follow-through with commitments to peace made at the Great Lakes Conference in November 2004, and to immediately work to end the corrupt and militarized plundering of the DRC’s resources. The UN Security Council and the African Union are also being asked to immediately incorporate into peacekeeping strategies mechanisms to secure areas where resources are exploited and traded by military groups in the DRC.

Managing natural resources in post-conflict environments is a priority for peacebuilding, and will be highlighted by the report of Kofi Annan's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.. The Panel is calling for the UN to “work with international financial institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector, to develop norms governing the management of natural resources in countries emerging from, or at risk of, conflict."

"Where resource exploitation has driven a war, so improving the governance, oversight and transparency of natural resource management should be a priority for peacebuilding. This is a textbook example of the problem with devastating implications for ordinary citizens of the Congo and nothing is happening", added Crossin.

Corene Crossin or Emily Bild on +44 (0)20 7561 6381.

Notes for the editor:
(1)The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
(2)Coltan is the abbreviated name for columbo-tantalite, a metallic ore used in mobile phone technology.
(3)Links between ongoing violent conflict in the Great Lakes region and the exploitation of natural resources including gold, diamonds, timber, ivory and coltan are well-documented in a series of United Nations Security Council Expert Panel Reports published between 2001 and 2003, as well as the June 2004 report by Global Witness, Same Old Story.
(4)Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses on the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict, and was co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
(5)UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, “Our Shared Responsibility: Collective Security in the 21st Century.” This report will be formally presented to the UN Secretary General on 2 December 2004.