||The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC) has had a devastating humanitarian impact on the local population, leaving over 2.5m dead since 1998 in the east of the country alone1. Congolese and foreign armed forces have exploited the DRC’s natural resources. We recommend that the relationship between resource exploitation and conflict is fully addressed both by the peace process and by the policies of influential governments such as the United Kingdom
1.2 The recent peace accords and the withdrawal of foreign armies from the country are welcomed. However, the power vacuum caused by troop withdrawal is likely to worsen the immediate security situation, compounding the humanitarian catastrophe. It is the responsibility of the international community to offer security both to the Government of Rwanda and the people of eastern DRC. We recommend the full and urgent implementation of the mandate UN observer mission (MONUC) to disarm negative forces, safeguard the population and monitor troop withdrawals.
1.3 The international community must help end the culture of impunity in the region. Perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide remain inside the DRC and must be brought to justice. There is also a need to address the mass human rights violations that have taken place in the DRC since 1998, including cases of sexual violence, where rape has been used as a weapon of war.
1.4 Resource exploitation undermines long-term stability and development in the region. Political and military elites have used formal and informal networks, some of which have been involved for decades in widespread fraudulent and illegal exploitation. The violence and insecurity associated with illegal economic exploitation will continue to result in displacements and food shortages. These systems of exploitation should be completely dismantled to ensure the viability of the peace process. This would require sustained international pressure on all governments in the Great Lakes Region, in particular the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
1.5 The Zimbabwean regime has used its presence to negotiate favourable joint ventures with the DRC government and Congolese companies in order to exploit some of the richest resources. In eastern DRC, opportunistic Ugandan generals have adopted a system of decentralised control to set up Ugandan or Congolese-led companies. Politicians and senior officers linked to the Rwandan army have established a more centralised system. Acting with the rebel authorities, they have secured favourable terms for Rwandan-owned companies, or directly exploited the resources themselves, in some cases allegedly using Hutu prisoners as labour.2 Warlords of the different militias, including the Mai-Mai, have engaged in resource exploitation for their own benefit. A significant number of Western companies are also involved, although there are very few UK companies working in the country.
1.6 There is considerable evidence of a continuation of criminality linked to exploitation, including fraud, smuggling, counterfeit money, extortion, and tax evasion. Many resources are flown directly out of the country without being taxed. It is alleged that criminal networks are used to transport and sell ‘unofficial’ quantities of minerals and other forms of wealth, in return for arms. There has been a proliferation of small
arms, with the rise of ethnically-based militias and even private armies.
In the Zimbabwean zone of influence, the exploitation of diamond concessions in the areas around Mbuji Mayi has led to a series of human rights violations perpetrated by Congolese and Zimbabwean security forces. Abuses include forced evictions of Congolese farmers from their lands and the shooting dead of respassers. In the Ugandan zone of influence (especially Ituri), the pursuit of minerals and timber by military leaders has resulted in people being displaced around mineral-rich sites. Humanitarian access to such locations has been extremely restricted. Violent conflict between the Hema and Lendu has escalated and the Ugandan army has failed to uphold safeguards for the civilian population.
1.8 In the Rwandan zone of influence (especially in the Kivus and Maniema), there has been widespread destruction of the socio-economic base. This has been compounded by the violent activities of various militia groups, such as the Interahamwe, Burundian rebels, and the Mai-Mai. The result has been food insecurity, widespread looting, irregular taxation, forced labour, continuous population displacements, and environmental destruction, especially in the national park areas. Human rights violations have occurred on a massive scale, including widespread sexual violence.
1.9 The UK government must be commended for trying to alleviate the suffering of the people in the DRC through humanitarian aid and support to the peace process. However, there is a need for an overarching regional policy. This would incorporate individual country programmes (Rwanda and Uganda) while at the same time putting the security and development needs of all the people of the Great Lakes at the heart of a regional strategy. We urge the UK government to produce a Regional Strategy Paper on the Great Lakes Region which incorporates all existing country programmes. We also urge the government to support the idea of a Regional Conference.
1.10 The UK government is in a position to influence the situation. The APPG welcomes the report of the UN Panel of Experts on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We urge the UK government to make a statement in the House of Commons, and ensure that the main findings are acted upon in the UN Security Council and the European Union.
1.11 The Department for International Development (DFID) country programmes in Uganda and Rwanda have had outstanding successes. We remain concerned, however, that Ugandan and Rwandan involvement in the DRC runs contrary to the principles of DFID agreements, in particular the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Rwandan government. We urge the UK government to commission evaluations on the implications of the involvement of Uganda and Rwanda in the DRC on the DFID country programmes, particularly given the likelihood of these governments returning their troops to the DRC.
1.12 UK assistance to the DRC has been limited to humanitarian relief and support to the peace process. While very welcome, resource exploitation is impacting on the UK’s aid programme. We therefore request greater support for sustainable livelihoods and the regulation of resource exploitation. (See p.6, recommendation 2.13.)
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