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EDITIONS
Monday, 21 October, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Sanctions urged for Congo plunderers
Congo rebel soldiers
Natural resources are being used to fund all sides fighting the war
A United Nations panel has called on the Security Council to impose financial sanctions against companies and individuals who plunder the Democratic Republic of Congo's wealth.

In the report, the five-member panel details 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, and medicinal barks.

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

The Council is set to debate the report on Thursday 24 October.

Child in Kindu hospital
DR Congo faces a huge humanitarian crisis
More than 27,000 foreign soldiers, including at least 20,000 Rwandans, have now left the country, the UN said last week, but fighting is continuing in the east of the country between the rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Mai-Mai militia, which Rwanda accuses of being supported by the Congolese government.

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.

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".

Elite exploiters

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.

"The elite networks derive financial benefit through a variety of criminal activities, including theft, embezzlement, diversion of public funds, undervaluation of goods, smuggling, false invoicing, non-payment of taxes, kickback to public officials and bribery," it said.

Several senior political and military figures are named from African countries including:

  • Rwandan army Chief of Staff James Kabarebe
  • DR Congo Minister of the Presidency Augustin Katumba Mwanke
  • Ugandan army Chief of Staff Major General James Kazini
  • Zimbabwe Parliament Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa

The report also names 85 multi-nationals in South Africa, Europe and the US for violating the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ethical guidelines on conflict zones.

These include the world's largest gem and mining firms, such as Anglo American, Barclays Bank, Bayer and De Beers diamond company among others.

Cashing in

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 Ugandan army is accused of provoking ethnic fighting in eastern Congo and of training militias to control "directly and discreetly" trade and tax collection.

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

It also said an embargo or moratorium on the export of Congolese minerals and resources was impractical.

No companies or individuals named in the report have responded so far.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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"

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See also:

21 Oct 02 | Africa
01 Aug 01 | Africa
05 Sep 00 | Africa
20 Oct 02 | Africa
07 Aug 02 | Business
24 May 02 | Africa
10 Apr 02 | Business
20 Nov 01 | Business
21 Oct 02 | Business
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