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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
DR Congo plunder denied
Congolese fleeing recent fighting
The war has left many Congolese destitute
Officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe have denied allegations made by a United Nations report that they looted DR Congo's natural resources during the four-year war.

On Monday, a UN panel called on the Security Council to impose financial sanctions against companies and individuals who had plundered DR Congo's wealth.

The Congolese Government is the legitimate government of this country... whatever we do is legitimate

Congolese spokesman Kikaya Bin Karubi
In the report, the five-member panel provided details of how the Rwandan Government and army, the Ugandan army, and Congolese and Zimbabwean Government officials plan to continue to exploit the DR Congo's resources.

The central African nation is rich in gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper and coltan, which is used in mobile phones.

The scramble for those resources has helped fuel a four-year war in which two million people have died.

War effort

Zimbabwe's defence forces commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe, named by the report, told the state-owned Herald newspaper that the allegations were part of a western plot to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe.

The Herald also reports that Zimbabwe's UN ambassador Tichaona Jokonya had written a letter of protest about the allegations to the UN Security Council a few days before the report was published.

Another Zimbabwean accused of profiting from the war, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said he would study the report before commenting, The Herald said.

Congolese Government spokesman Kikaya Bin Karubi told the BBC's Network for Africa programme that he was happy to see that the UN said that Rwanda had not withdrawn from Congolese territory, as it had claimed.

But he denied the looting allegations made against several Congolese ministers.

"The Congolese Government is the legitimate government of this country... whatever we do is legitimate," he said.

We had to use our resources to finance the war effort, he said.

'Security reasons'

Uganda's military intelligence chief Nobel Mayombo, named in the UN report has also denied any wrongdoing, according to the French News agency, AFP.

"I don't hold any shares in any company doing business in Congo.

Diamond dealers in DR Congo
Diamond dealing is one of DR Congo's few thriving industries

"They should tell me which cartel I belong to because I know they cannot prove their allegations.

"I challenge them to make public the source of their information," Mr Mayombo said.

Newly appointed Rwandan army chief of staff Charles Kayonga described the report as "hopeless", according to Reuters news agency.

"Our forces went into Congo for security reasons only and we did just that," he said.

Most of the 29 companies named are African but the list includes four Belgian diamond firms and the Belgian Groupe George Forrest mining group, which has a joint venture with the US-based OM Group.

Elite exploiters

The panel recommended 54 individuals face travel bans, a freeze on their personal assets and the same financial restrictions as the businesses.

Prominent among the individuals named is the Ukranian born arms trader, Victor Bout, who was once described by UK minister Peter Hain as a "merchant of death".

Man holding coltan
Congolese coltan is used in mobile phones

The plunder continues, despite the withdrawal of foreign troops, by "elite networks" running a self-financing war economy on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report said.

While Rwanda, with the largest force, has withdrawn troops, it has left soldiers behind to operate the "Congo Desk of the Rwandan Patriotic Army," which in 1999 contributed $320m or 80% of the Rwandan military budget, the panel said.

Congolese and Zimbabwean Government and military officials have transferred the ownership of at least $5bn in assets from the state mining sector to private companies "with no compensation or benefit for the state treasury", it said.

Zimbabwean officials claim their contracts are legal payment for troops, which support the Kinshasa government.

The panel suggested that these individuals and companies be given a four to five month "grace period" before any restrictions begin.

The BBC's Davis Loyn
"The report estimates 3.5 million people have died in the conflict"
Expert on illegal diamond trading Christine Gordon
"This trade was very specifically set up by the rebels in 1998"
DR Congo's Kikaya Bin Karubi
"Whatever we do is legitimate"

Key stories


See also:

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