Letter to United Nations General-Secretary Kofi Annan Regarding the Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tuesday, February 01 2000

His Excellency Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations
New York, NY 10017

Your Excellency:

Deeply concerned by the never-ending war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, former Zaire), and by its disastrous consequences on human life and the national patrimony, we make a vibrant appeal to the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) and to its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for immediate action.

We, the signers of this appeal, request the imposition of an effective total arms embargo (according to UN Charter VII, 4) on all the Congolese parties involved in the war in the DRC and on the States that support them militarily (Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi).

Furthermore we request from the United Nations decisive help in implementing the Lusaka Peace Accord, as well as for the convening of an international conference for justice and peace in Central Africa.

Almost unnoticed by the global public, the tragedy of the DRC has been steadily escalating for several years. While the eastern provinces remain occupied by marauding troops, with active support especially from Rwanda and Uganda, democratic reforms in Kinshasa are far distant. The inheritance of the Mobutu dictatorship, ethnocentric ideology with politically used racial hatred, especially between Hutu and Tutsi, is becoming worse. The economy, education, health, agriculture and public utilities are in a pitiful state. Average income and the gross national product are in a process of constant decline, while hyper inflation and the debt crisis make the state nearly insolvent. War and lawlessness stalk the country. Reports of mass massacres and other grave violations of human rights are abundant.

The Lusaka Peace Accord of 10 July 1999 appeared to be the long-awaited breakthrough for the desire for peace and it opened a new perspective to extinguish the dangerous conflagration in Central Africa. At present, however, the implementation of this hard-won Accord between all the principal parties to the conflict has been delayed as a result not only of the difficulties in the work of the Joint Military Commission and the mission of the UN observers, but also of the complications from recent military offensives, air raids, the ongoing recruitment of combatants, and the giving of arms to the civilian population. The intended national dialogue has come to a standstill in Kinshasa before it has even really started.

The natural resources of the Congo are being stripped and taken out of the country. The eastern provinces in particular are rich in mineral wealth, including rare minerals of great importance for major industries (electronics, aeronautics, astronautics) and nuclear medicine. [See, for example, Colette Braeckman’s report in Le Monde Diplomatique, 10/1999.] This loss of the national wealth is a further misfortune for the Congolese.

The DRC has come to be a fragmented state. Regarding the perspectives for a solution of the continuing conflict, we agree with the position paper of the (Catholic) Association of Central African Episcopal Conferences dated 15 November 1999, prepared by the bishops of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. “A lasting peace can only be realized through dialogue among the citizens of all our countries. This dialogue must seek real reconciliation, based on justice and forgiveness. This dialogue must strive for the establishment of a constitutional order, based on consensus, which would be the restoration of a state of law, founded on democratic culture.” The bishops point out that inter-State dialogue has to be based on respect for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of each country.

We regret the indifference of the international community with regard to the Congolese conflict. A comparison between the crisis in Congo/Kinshasa and those of Kuwait (1990/91) and of Kosovo and East Timor (1999), demonstrates at the least different scales in the evaluation of the human aspects of these conflict situations. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rightly recognized and regretted this during his report to the UN General Assembly last September. More than fifty million people are suffering in the escalating conflict in the DRC. The Congolese people are even less willing to put up with this situation in that their country served for three decades as a rampart in the defence of the interests of the free world.

Having considered this dramatic situation, we appeal to the international community so that the ways and means be found to make the fighting parties involved return as soon as possible to dialogue and to the peace process opened by the Lusaka Accord. Most of the weapons in this war in Central Africa are imported directly or indirectly from the industrialized countries. The existing embargos (for instance, the still-valid EU embargo against the DRC of 3 June 1993) are clearly not sufficient. The import into the region of all material used for weapons and warfare must be blocked immediately. Weapons are still being imported into the region. One may well ask who is financing this arms trade and who is profiting from this war.

For all these reasons, we urgently request the implementation of a comprehensive arms embargo, including light weapons, against all parties implicated in the war in the DRC, as well as against all states involved in this war, and the establishment of the necessary measures of control to achieve this purpose.

At the same time we request the UN to contribute in an energetic manner and without further delay to the implementation of the Lusaka Accord in general, and in particular to the encouragement of intra-Congolese dialogue, to the maintaining of the territorial integrity of the DRC while forcing the withdrawal of the Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundian occupation armies, as well as to the safeguarding of the borders.

Finally, we again appeal to the UN to support the preparation and the convocation of the often-requested conference of all Central African states in order to achieve a comprehensive solution for a future in peace and development.

Yours sincerely,

XMost Reverend Gerald Wiesner, OMI
Bishop of Prince George
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops