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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 11:13 GMT
UN DR Congo report revealed
By Caroline Pare
BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents

FAPC Commander Jerome Kakwavu
Jerome Kakwavu is accused of exchanging gold for Ugandan weapons

The BBC has obtained a key unpublished part of the latest United Nations report on the exploitation of Congolese resources, which had been intended for Security Council eyes only.

In the covering letter, the chairman of the panel that wrote the report, Ambassador Mahmoud Kassem, says it "contains highly sensitive information" on those involved in plunder, and their role in "perpetuating the conflict".

But speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents programme, he said the facts needed to be kept under wraps in an effort to protect the fragile peace process which depends on those named.

He told the programme: "It could be used or misused."

DR Congo comes to terms with the end of a long war

However, Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch said: 'It means the peace process will fail. There is no peace process in the world that has worked without dealing with the underlying problems.

"Exploitation is one of the things driving the war. We must not ignore it.'

Gold for arms

The report, for example, cites documents suggesting "a shift to a more centralized, state-sponsored policy" of militia funding and exploitation in Uganda.

It also claims that the FAPC militia - which controls a resource-rich area of north-east DR Congo, on the border with Uganda - has remained a proxy militia for Uganda since Uganda pulled its forces out of DR Congo earlier this year.

The FAPC leader is Jerome Kakwavu, who the UN panel claim is exploiting the gold reserves in his area and sharing them with Ugandan officers in exchange for arms.

Jacques and Paul
Jacques and Paul fled Jerome's camp during a mutiny

However, Jerome Kakwavu denied this allegation.

Speaking to Crossing Continents, he said: 'Negative... Uganda is Uganda, Congo is Congo. We are on good terms, that is all."

While investigating allegations of the continued involvement of the Ugandan military in the DR Congo, Crossing Continents spoke to two Congolese refugees.

Jacques and Paul had fled to Uganda during a mutiny in Jerome's headquarters. But they found no safe haven.

Instead they were picked up by Ugandan soldiers, imprisoned in Uganda for two weeks and then handed back to the Congolese militia to face justice.

Jacques said of the Ugandan military: "They pick Congolese opponents of Jerome that they have picked up in Uganda and offer them back to Jerome. When they go back they are killed.'

Jacques and Paul said this example of close military co-operation across the border was one of many they saw.

According to Jacques: "On 14 May Jerome's second in command received a lorry-full of ammunition made in Nakasongola in Uganda. He received it from Pakwatch, Uganda. It was taken to Aru at two in the morning.'

And the BBC's own experience was that when leaving DR Congo in a vehicle with Jerome's armed guards, the Ugandan border authorities just waved the vehicle through without a second glance.

British aid

Rwanda and Uganda invaded DR Congo in 1998, saying they wanted to neutralise the threat posed by rebels across the border.

Both countries have now officially withdrawn and have even urged the UN to disarm the tens of thousands of militiamen in DR Congo.

But the violence has continued despite a national peace agreement finalised in April.

The suppression of the UN report is not the first example of the international community turning a blind eye to abuses in DR Congo.

The aid we have given has gone to support Uganda in reducing poverty
Hilary Benn, UK Development Secretary

Aggrey Awori is one of a few independent MPs in Uganda's one party parliament.

He says that as the biggest donor to Uganda, the UK has had the leverage to stop Uganda's adventure in DR Congo, but has not used it. The UK and other donors fund 58% of Uganda's budget.

He told the programme: 'When you give us money for education and health, the money we should have put into that sector is used for our military programmes such as intervention in neighbouring countries such as Congo.'

Asked if he felt this meant the British taxpayer indirectly financed the war in DR Congo, he said: "Bluntly, yes."

But the UK's new Secretary of State for Development, Hilary Benn, said that this is not an argument that he would accept.

"The aid we have given has gone to support Uganda in reducing poverty, making a better life for its people and getting more kids into school. And we have seen real progress," he said.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 20 November at 1100 GMT.

The programme will be repeated on Monday, 24 November at 2030 GMT.

Tim Whewell: Biography
17 Dec 03  |  Crossing Continents
Don't argue with 'General' Jerome
16 Nov 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent


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