Human rights and justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Delivered in Plenary - 22nd September 2010
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is neither particularly democratic as we understand the term here in the European Union, nor is it an effectively functioning republic; this is partly due to its vast size, porous borders and poor infrastructure, which makes democratic governance a major challenge.
But the DRCís fragility as a nation state is also due to decades of corruption, political repression and sporadic armed conflict, both internally and with neighbouring states, where atrocious crimes such as mass rape have been carried out. The deterioration began under the kleptocratic and murderous regime of President Mobutu and has continued to the present day. President Kabila has at least held a general election to give the impression to the outside world of instituting democratic reform, but in reality he controls all the levers of power, and in particular access to the countryís vast natural resources.
The increasing interest of some countries, particularly China, in exploiting these resources has emboldened the Kabila regime to neglect its responsibilities regarding human rights and the rule of law. China itself has a lamentable human rights record, and at the UN actually defends the actions of countries like the DRC with which it does business. It is therefore no surprise to me that, of the three trials under way at the International Criminal Court, all involve nationals of the DRC.
Despite this alarming situation, the African Union refuses to condemn or pressurise Kabila to live up to his constitutional obligations. The EU, to its credit, has no such qualms, and I welcome the tough approach taken by the High Representative, Baroness Ashton.
Finally, I want to reiterate the call I have made several times already in this House for the Kimberley Process to be extended to cover other key natural resources in Africa. Human rights abuses in Africa, which are all too common regrettably, are often linked to competition for the control of mineral resources. The Kimberley Process has been hugely successful in curtailing the trade in conflict or blood diamonds, and I believe a similar approach should now be considered for other extractive industries.