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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
Congo report denounced
Congolese rebel
The report claims that the theft of Congo's natural resources fuelled the war
The governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi have denounced as one-sided and false a report by a United Nations panel that accused them of plundering the DR Congo's mineral riches and recommended sanctions against them.

In the first Security Council debate on the report since it was submitted on 16 April, all three nations said the panel's survey could hurt current efforts to end the war in Congo.

"Most of the evidence is either hearsay or falsehoods or the panel makes statements which are not attributed." said Amama Mbabazi, Uganda's minister of state for foreign affairs.

Amama Mbabazi, Uganda's minister or foreign affairs.
Mbabazi: hearsay and falsehoods
He said Safiatu Ba-N'Daw, the chairwoman of the five-member panel commissioned by the council, should be replaced.

The group's investigation will now be extended for three months.

Ms Ba-N'Daw, a former Ivory Coast minister, has defended her report though, which she said was 70% completed.

The exploitation of resources in the DR Congo was carried out in a "systematic fashion" and included confiscation, extraction, force, monopolies and price fixing of timber, gold, diamonds and other resources, she told the council.

Punishment

The report urged the Security Council to punish Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi by halting their trade in minerals.

While France said the council should take action after the report is completed, US representative James Cunningham said the council's goal should not be "to punish and apportion blame" but to successfully implement a cease-fire.


Rwanda proposes that this report should be dropped altogether because it is inaccurate, inconclusive and does not in any way interpret the wishes of the council

Patrick Mazimhaka
Special envoy of President Kagame

Uganda's Mr Mbabazi said his country had set up a commission to investigate all Ugandans mentioned in the report, which included senior Ugandan officers, one of them the brother of President Yoweri Museveni, as well as one of his sons.

But he said accusations in the report that Mr Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame were "on the verge of becoming godfathers" of the illegal exploitation were out of line.

"Godfathers are Mafia. Godfathers are those who control criminal cartels, criminal syndicates. You must have evidence for it," he said.

Stockpiles looted

As for Rwanda, the report cited soldiers looting a bank and plundering a seven-year stockpile of coltan, a mineral used in cellular phones and nuclear reactors.

Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi support various rebel groups while Zimbabwe, Uganda and Namibia sent troops to help the government in the civil war.

Patrick Mazimhaka, special envoy of President Kagame, said the report incorrectly defined "illegal" exploitation as those activities not sanctioned by the government, even though Kinshasa controlled only 40% of Congo's territory.

"Rwanda proposes that this report should be dropped altogether because it is inaccurate, inconclusive and does not in any way interpret the wishes of the council," he said.

Welcomed by Congo

In contrast, Congo's foreign minister, Leonard She Okitundu, complimented the report and asked for sanctions and reparations against Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

"The aggressor countries occupy Congo because of powerful and obvious economic interests, which also feed their war effort," he said.

With more than two million people, including 600,000 children, dead as a result of the war, "in this gigantic enterprise, the sole losers are the Congolese," he said.

Rwanda and Uganda's complaints did not fall on deaf ears.

Incomplete picture

Most council members agreed there was a link between exploitation of the Congo's riches and continuation of the war.

But several said the report was badly presented and did not, for example, spell out the role of large private companies.

Mr Cunningham said that countries such as Uganda and Rwanda, which had co-operated with the panel, came in for the most criticism, compared to Zimbabwe, which did not co-operate.

While the country had been exploited by foreigners for decades, its own officials were not be exempt from corruption, he said.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Africa
UN alleges DR Congo exploitation
15 Apr 01 | Africa
Congo ceasefire 'broken'
04 Apr 01 | Africa
Uganda ready to leave DR Congo
16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
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