Congo: The Circular Arms Trade

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

May 23, 2007: An all too believable accusation is making the rounds in the European media. The charge is that, last year, a UN investigative team learned that some UN peacekeepers had sold arms and bartered gold with members of an illegal militia in the Congo in 2005. Specifically, a Pakistani unit operating in the town of Mongbwalu (northeast Congo) was involved in the arms trade and illegal gold purchasing operations. The report said a "small number" of personnel were involved. The arms traded to the militiamen were arms that had been "harvested" (collected) from various militias. The "circular arms trade" is an old problem that has cropped up in numerous insurgencies. Guerrilla arms are seized and then sold back to the guerrillas by criminal gangs or soldiers operating with criminal gangs. In the case of the Congo, it looks like some of the peacekeepers were "freelancing" on their own.

May 21, 2007: UN and NGO sources reported that a park ranger was killed in Virunga National park. The ranger was part of a patrol attempting to protect a rare group of mountain gorillas in the area. An illegal militia force is operating in the area and has been poaching. The militia group is suspected of killing several hundred hippos in 2006, in order to sell the meat.

May 15, 2007: The UN Security Council passed a resolution that will extend the Congo peacekeeping mission until December 2007. The UN believes that the March 2007 fighting in Kinshasha that left around 600 people dead was a very serious setback to Congolese reconciliation. UN troops ended up acting as a buffer between forces loyal to Congo president Joseph Kabila and former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba (who is now in exile.)

 

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