Tanzanian Foreign Affairs and International co-operation minister, Bernard Membe
THE GUARDIAN (Tanzania)
By Jesse Kwayu
30th November 2009
Tanzania has demanded an apology from the United Nations over allegations that she was among 25 countries illegally supplying arms to a Hutu rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
An enraged Foreign Affairs and International co-operation minister, Bernard Membe yesterday termed the accusations contained in a controversial UN report as a concoction with evil intentions.
Membe told a press here that the report claimed to be authored by a UN Group of five experts was malicious, not acceptable and must be ignored.
“It is an act of hostility for which we find it difficult to remain silent. It is not acceptable. We deserve to be treated better. We deserve and demand an apology,” the minister said.
The highly controversial UN report claims that Tanzania has been secretly sending weapons to a Hutu rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The UN document alleges that Tanzania is among 25 countries that form an international support network for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group made up of Hutu refugees from Rwanda who took cover in the DRC after the end of the 1994 Rwanda genocide of over half a million Tutsis.
The UN report claims that some phone calls were made between FDLR commanders and high level government officials in Tanzania and Burundi.
The report specifically accuses Tanzania of making ‘significant’ delivery of weapons and ammunition via Lake Tanganyika to the FDLR, saying that Tanzanians are motivated by the need to retain influence over illegal trade with Congo.
Membe expressed the government’s surprise and dismay at the report which he said was designed to tarnish Tanzania’s good image.
He emphatically said Tanzania has never and will not even contemplate to indulge in such despicable, reckless and worthless causes of trafficking arms which will fuel conflicts and fighting in neighbouring countries like Rwanda and DRC.
The minister reiterated his country’s position in the Great Lakes regions as a safe haven for refugees fleeing wars and other persecution in their countries.
He said while Tanzania was committed to ending conflicts in the region, it will never engage in acts that will fuel such conflicts.
According to Membe, the government has been at great pains to find out whether the reports had any shade of truth only to discover that it contained only second-hand quotes, hearsays, farfetched assumptions and extrapolation by unnamed sources.
“The work of the group has left the government of Tanzania surprised at such level of incompetence and un-professionalism for the panel put together by the United Nations, an organization that the government considers serious and esteemed,” the minister said, adding: “We are left with no other option but to consider these allegations contemptible and malicious.”
Membe said Tanzania neither has shops selling weapons for war nor did it have plans to establish one now or in the future.
He said associating Tanzania with illegal arms trafficking amounted to implicating the national armed forces who are the custodian of all war weapons, when not a single arm has been reported missing from the country’s armouries.
Membe labelled the report a fabricated lie done deliberately and with ill intentions against Tanzania.
He asked the United Nations and everybody to ignore and treat the report with the contempt it deserved.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN