It is alarming that the United Nations has lifted sanctions on UNITA. In December 1998 Global Witness brought to the worlds attention to how UNITA had generated $3.7 billion in revenue through the illicit sale of conflict diamonds through major diamond companies such as De Beers and in the world's diamond trading centres. This expose led directly to the worldwide effort to curb the trade in conflict diamonds, which has culminated in the establishment of the Kimberley Process import and export control regime due to launch internationally on 1 January 2003.
The UN Angolan sanctions Monitoring Mechanism's own report of October 2002 found that UNITA still possess large quantities of conflict diamonds and illegal weapons. Diamond smuggling continues at $1 million per day. It is absurd that the United Nations agreed to the lifting of diamond and arms sanctions on UNITA, even if it is linked to the Lusaka Protocol agreement.
"The international community must maintain an unequivocal stance against the Angolan criminal networks, including the Angolan Armed Forces and their Generals that are still trading in illicit diamonds mined in Angola. The United Nations are repeating mistakes paralleled with Cambodia when the former Khmer Rouge commanders were allowed to become warlords by generating large amounts of illegal cash through the illicit timber trade. The international community are allowing warlords to be created in Angola in a similar fashion, with access to huge financial resources from diamonds and huge stockpiles of weapons, and the consequences could be dire" said Alex Yearsley, Campaigner at Global Witness.
In a separate move it is encouraging that the Belgian government are opening criminal investigations against two individuals named in the recent UN Expert Panel Report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report devastatingly exposed the plunder of natural resources in that conflict-torn country. The Belgian police recently arrested Jacques Van den Abeele, accused with his business partner, Aziza Kulsum, of smuggling coltan in collaboration with the Rassemblement conglais pour la democratie (RCD) rebel movement. The Swiss authorities should also be applauded for agreeing to freeze bank accounts allegedly belonging to the pair.
"The Belgian government's action shows that governments whose nationals are proven to be fuelling conflict and instability can act. The UN should make public, where possible, the information it holds on individuals and companies involved in plundering resources from DRC, so that governments can investigate the allegations and, where there is compelling evidence, instigate criminal proceedings", said Yearsley.
1 Sanctions on the direct or indirect export of diamonds from Liberia were first imposed in May 2001, and the arms embargo also applies to the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
2 The ban was first imposed in July 2000 and will apply till June 2003.
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