In Trinidad, Embarrassing UN Congo Report Follows African Leaders

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Tanzania distributed a press release in the Media Center in the IFC Tower in which the government expressed “surprise and dismay” at the damning UN report. The report accuses officials from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and DRC of a blatant breach of UN sanctions barring arms transfers to Congo.

[Global: Commonwealth Conference]

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad--Fallout from the recent United Nations Group of Five Experts report accusing Tanzania alongside Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government of supplying arms to rebels in war torn Congo, extended all the way here in Trinidad where the Commonwealth Conference has concluded.

In a frantic move yesterday Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe saw officials from his country distributing a press release in the Media Center in the IFC Tower in which the government expressed “surprise and dismay” at the damning UN report. The report accuses officials from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and DRC of a blatant breach of UN sanctions barring arms transfers to Congo.

Ironically, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) remained silent about these accusations in its official statements.

Ignoring the huge elephant in the room, the report's ramifications, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete instead praised his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni, for what he called “wonderful”  leadership during his two-year stint as chairman of the Commonwealth grouping. These are countries which mostly once made up the British Empire before decolonization.

Notwithstanding the embarrassing report, Kikwete, said, of Museveni: "We wish to thank and congratulate our brother from the African region, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, for his leadership and service to our organization as Chairman since the Kampala CHOGM.”

Kikwete said he was also  optimistic that because of the presence of leaders of non-Commonwealth member countries, such as President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the Trinidad gathering created impetus for next month's Climate Change summit in Copenhagen. He also commended leaders for adding Rwanda as the 54th member of the Commonwealth. “This is a very wise decision. Rwanda deserves it. We congratulate Rwanda and its people on this occasion,” he said.

Furthermore, in a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, Commonwealth leaders agreed to reinstate Pakistan which had previously been expelled, saying last year's elections were credible.

Commonwealth leaders expressed "concern" over political deterioration in Fiji; the country’s constitution was abrogated last April.

The issue of climate change almost dominated this year’s CHOGM. With the United Nations Climate Change summit due next month, frantic movements by Sarkozy, UN's  Ban Ki Moon and Denmark's Rasmussen seem to have done the trick.

The heads adopted the Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus; the Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration, saying that there were only a few short years to address the threat of climate change. “The average global temperature has risen because of the increase in carbon and other green house emissions. The latest scientific evidence indicates that in order to avoid dangerous climate change that is likely to have catastrophic impacts; we must find solutions using all available avenues. We must act now,” the communiqué warns.

Leaders voiced their deep concern over the way in which small arms and weapons are readily available. They acknowledged this posed a threat to peace security and the stability of member states. They reaffirmed their support for the United Nations Program of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.


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