Page last updated at 00:58 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 01:58 UK

Congo spotlight on India and Pakistan

By Martin Plaut
BBC News

Pakistani troops in DR Congo in 2007
Pakistan is the biggest contributor to the UN peacekeeping effort

A BBC investigation into United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo has put the spotlight on Indian troops for the first time, and revived questions about Pakistani troops there.

Much of the report is based on confidential UN documents.

Concerns were first raised within the UN about Indian troop activities in eastern DR Congo in July, 2007.

After discussions between the UN and India, it was agreed that a UN investigation team would "determine whether the allegations are credible and require full investigation by India and the United Nations".

That team identified five areas involving Indian troops in which a UN report says allegations have been "corroborated":

  • The illegal purchase of gold from rebels of the FDLR - the former Rwandan army that fled to Congo following their involvement in the Rwanda genocide of 1994
  • The use of a UN helicopter to fly into the Virunga national park, to exchange ammunition for ivory with the rebels
  • The exchanging with the rebels of UN rations for gold
  • The buying of drugs from the rebels

  • The failure to support the disarmament of this rebel group.


It says there is sufficient evidence to take action against three named Indian peacekeepers over attempts to trade in gold (some of which turned out to be counterfeit) and the unlawful detention of one of the traders.

DR Congo map

It says that there is insufficient evidence to act against Indian peacekeepers over the other allegations.

The memo, from the UN's Vladislav Guerassev, says the allegations "may have the potential to damage the reputation of the Indian military and the United Nations".

Therefore it says the Indian authorities "may wish to consider other avenues of inquiry, which fall outside the purviews of the (UN's Investigation Division) investigations."

In response to the allegations the Indian High Commission in London told the BBC that the allegations over trading in gold were a "trivial case" and that the three soldiers concerned were being investigated by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

If found guilty, they would face disciplinary action, the High Commission said.

It also said that the OIOS "has affirmed that there is no evidence of any other allegation against the Indian troops in DR Congo" including the allegations of "the arming of a militia".

'Alienating Pakistan'

The BBC first reported into allegations of corrupt practices by Pakistani peacekeepers in the DR Congo last year. These took place in a different area of eastern Congo to the activities of the Indian troops.

They did give us arms. They said it was for the security of the country
Mateso Ninga
rebel leader

Now the BBC has found evidence that a UN enquiry into what took place in the gold mining town of Mongbwalu appears to have been blocked for political reasons.

Those close to this investigation told us that elements of the investigation were suppressed for fear of alienating Pakistan, which is the largest troop contributing country to the UN.

When the BBC last year published the first allegations that Pakistan peacekeepers had illegally traded in gold, as well as providing weapons to some of Congo's most notorious militia, the FNI, the reaction of the Pakistani authorities was one of denial.

In May 2007 the military spokesman at the time, Maj Gen Waheed Arshad, said the reports were "not only malicious but misleading and distorted" and without evidence.

Hard to believe

The UN's own report, dated 2 July 2007, which it has never published, concludes that the Pakistani contingent in Mongbwalu did indeed trade in gold with a group of Indian traders based in East Africa.

Mongbwalu - could one man have organised $7m in gold trade from here

The UN goes on to hold just one Pakistani army officer responsible for what took place. It is hard to believe that one single officer, based in an isolated Congolese village, could organise a trade involving an estimated $7m in gold passing through four countries, but that was the UN's conclusion.

On the question of re-arming the FNI militia the UN report, which removed the names of those involved, was unequivocal: "In the absence of corroborative evidence, (the UN's Investigation Division) could not substantiate the allegation that (Pakistani peacekeepers) deployed to Mongbwalu had supplied weapons or ammunition" to FNI fighters.

Travelling back to eastern Congo the BBC has now found evidence the UN says it was unable to discover.

One needs to ask what interests Pakistan peacekeepers could have in doing that
Maj Gen Athar Abbas
Pakistan military spokesman

We interviewed several residents of the town, who told us they had seen FNI militia who were disarmed one day, in the town the next day with the same weapons.

We spoke to a man whose family members died fighting for the FNI.

"The FNI commanders - these were Dragon Masasi and Kung Fu Nyinga - took a vehicle to meet and negotiate with one of the Pakistani officers," he said.

"They went in and came back with seven boxes of ammunition. After receiving these boxes, all the militia - including my young brothers - took their arms to go and attack the Congolese army."

We also went into the maximum security prison in the capital, Kinshasa, to interview the two FNI leaders named above.

Kung Fu - real name General Mateso Ninga - was clear about what had taken place. "Yes, its true, " he said. "They did give us arms. They said it was for the security of the country. So they said to us that we would help them take care of the zone."

'Thirst for gold'

In fact the UN had compelling evidence of its own, which it failed to refer to in its report. This was the testimony of a Congolese army officer involved in the disarmament process.

Digging for gold
Digging for gold in eastern DR Congo

He told the investigators during three interviews that he had repeatedly seen militia disarmed, yet had seen them with the same arms soon thereafter.

Asked why this was he put it down to what he called the "thirst for gold" on the part of one of the Pakistani officers.

Unofficially UN officials now accept that the trade in gold and the re-arming of the FNI militia did, indeed, take place.

And one Pakistani officer is reported to have been disciplined. The UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations says it has been sending Pakistan "notes verbal" since last year in an attempt to discover what disciplinary measures these were, but has received no reply.

In response to the latest BBC report, the current Pakistani military spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, said the BBC was showing a "biased attitude towards Pakistan".

Maj Gen Abbas said there was "no evidence" of Pakistani troop involvement in the illegal exploitation of gold or the rearming of a militia. "One needs to ask what interests Pakistan peacekeepers could have in doing that" he said.

He also argued that the BBC was wrong to rely on the evidence of Mateso Ninga, a "criminal in the prison".

He also denied that the UN had been prevented from investigating the allegations.

UN troops 'helped smuggle gold'
11 Aug 07 |  Africa
Peacekeeper 'smuggled Congo gold'
13 Jul 07 |  South Asia
UN probing DRC smuggling claims
23 May 07 |  Africa


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