Zambia's Banda heads mineral summit

2010-12-15 10:47

Lusaka - Zambian President Rupiah Banda will on Wednesday address Africa's Great Lakes nations at a summit aimed at curbing the illegal exploitation of diamonds, oil and gold, which has fuelled armed conflicts.

"This special summit is meant to see how we can put an end to armed groups getting access to minerals," said Liberata Mulamula, a spokesperson for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

"The summit has been convened following concerns and a number of reports on illegal exploitation of natural resources."

Banda, the current chairperson of the ICGLR, is due to address delegates at around 10:30 (08:30 GMT). Other heads of state expected to attend include Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi.

The ICGLR's 11 members also include Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. About 200 delegates, including ministers for mines and foreign affairs are attending the conference, which convened on Monday.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly its eastern region, was an example of where diamonds had been a source of conflict while oil was the cause of disturbances in Angola, Mulamula said.

"We have to harmonise our laws to do with natural resources because the resources have led to conflicts in many lands," she added.

In September a UN expert warned a precious metals conference in Berlin that rebels in eastern DRC, including those blamed by the UN for the rapes of at least 303 civilians in four days in July-August, were being financed by illegal mining of gold and other minerals that are exported worldwide.

The Great Lakes region has been a theatre of repeated violence since the 1990s, with a civil war in Burundi in 1993, the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and rebellions and wars in the DRC from 1996 to 1997 and 1998 to 2003.