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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Uganda plans looting charges
Residents of Bunia are being left destitute by the fighting over land and resources
Human misery is the result of the plundering of the DRC
Senior military officers and businesspeople are to be prosecuted in Uganda for allegedly stealing the resources of neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The charges stem from the long-awaited report of an independent judicial commission into Ugandan involvement in the DRC's long conflict, chaired by British-born Justice David Porter.

The Porter Commission report, released in Kampala on Wednesday, accuses Army Commander General James Kazini of plundering natural resources, and a stream of businesspeople for colluding and aiding in the looting.

But the President, Yoweri Museveni, has been cleared of any involvement, along with a number of other military and civil figures accused by a United Nations panel of complicity in the looting.


According to the Ugandan government, the report will spark military investigations of General Kazini and a number of his cronies, while the civil authorities will look into the charges against the civilians.

They include the wife of former Army Commander Lieutenant General Salim Saleh, the President's half-brother, who is accused of complicity in widespread smuggling of blood diamonds.

Also included in the probe are businesspeople from Uganda and also from the Middle East, suspected of running the trade on her - and other people's - behalf.

They, and General Kazini, are linked in the UN report to a company called the Victoria Group, which the UN panel believes is a key conduit for smuggling diamonds and minerals out of the DRC.

But Lieutenant General Saleh himself - along with a number of other officers and civilians named as complicit by the UN panel - is exonerated of all except failing to carry out what the Commission said were orders from the President to prevent army officers exploiting their presence in the DRC.

Off the hook

It is little surprise to observers that Gen Kazini is carrying the can.

A rebel soldier with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher
Both sides are using local proxies to keep control
Documentary evidence - in the shape of letters concerning resource looting that carry his signature - has put him squarely in the frame.

Human rights groups and other organisations say that Mr Porter has stuck closely to the most damning evidence, but has shied away from going any further into the tangled web of relationships between soldiers, governments and businesses outlined by the UN panel's report.

The UN panel, for instance, was uncompromising in its insistence that Lieutenant General Saleh and a number of other figures cleared by Mr Porter were deeply complicit in both looting the DRC and setting up civilian and paramilitary organisations to carry on the plunder once they left.

Ugandan troops finally pulled out of the North-East DRC province of Ituri in late April, leaving a power vacuum that local warring ethnic groups - each a client of either Uganda or Rwanda - have filled.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are known to have fled to the bush, leaving the main town, Bunia, to be over-run by paramilitaries and the local UN presence hugely outnumbered.

Rwanda denies DRC plundering
18 Feb 03  |  Business
Timeline: Democratic Republic of Congo
08 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Q&A: Plunder in Congo
21 Oct 02  |  Business

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