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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 11:30 GMT
Firms 'unpunished' over Congo war
By Martin Plaut
BBC regional analyst

Congolese teenager pans for gold
The hunt for minerals has fuelled the conflict
A British-based development group has accused industrialised countries of failing to punish companies alleged to have profited from the DR Congo war.

The group says governments from the world's 30 richest countries failed to investigate what companies based in their countries did in the Congo.

Four years ago a UN panel named companies and individuals that had allegedly been enriched by the war.

The governments concerned say the UN has failed to substantiate the claims.

The war in the DR Congo that broke out in 1998 claimed over three million lives. and included slaughter and atrocities on an almost unimaginable scale.

A UN Security Council appointed a panel to reported on how Congo's gold, diamonds and other minerals paid for and fuelled the conflict.

But after reporting, the panel was wound up, leaving a host of unanswered questions.

No information

In theory the companies should be accountable under guidelines produced by the Paris-based agency, the Organisation for Co-operation and Development.

But Wednesday's report - by the Rights and Accountability in Development group - says no progress has been made in pursing the companies by their own governments.

Britain - which is home to some of the named companies - says it has written to the UN panel asking for detailed information.

It has also called on aid agencies to back up the allegations.

But - say British officials - the information has simply not been forthcoming.

And without that, this investigation that so nearly uncovered so much about the funding of the Congolese war, will vanish into the sand.

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