afrol News, 22 October - Although foreign troops are withdrawing or have withdrawn from Congo Kinshasa (DRC), Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda are assuring themselves of continued illegal resource exploitation, a UN report says. The Congolese government even encourages further Zimbabwean illegal operations.
According to a report by a group of UN experts released yesterday, conflict in the Congo will not stop by the withdrawal of the armies of the seven African states intervening in the country. "The overlapping microconflicts" that the war provoked, do continue. "These conflicts are fought over minerals, farm produce, land and even tax revenues," the UN report says.
Criminal groups linked to the armies of Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe and the Congolese government "have benefited from the microconflicts. Those groups will not disband voluntarily even as the foreign military forces continue their withdrawals. They have built up a self-financing war economy centred on mineral exploitation," according to the report.
Withdrawals were "unlikely" to alter the determination of Rwanda and Zimbabwe, and Ugandan individuals, to exercise economic control over portions of the Congo. The departure of their forces would further do little to reduce their economic control.
The governments of Rwanda and Zimbabwe, as well as powerful individuals in Uganda, had "adopted other strategies for maintaining the mechanisms for revenue generation, many of which involve criminal activities, once their troops have departed."
Ugandan army arms local groups
The UN Panel says it has "evidence that high-ranking UPDF officers have taken steps to train local militia to serve as a paramilitary force, directly and discreetly under UPDF command, which will be capable of performing the same functions as UPDF."
There would therefore be little change in the control that Ugandans now exercise over trade flows and economic resources. As UPDF continue to arm local groups, only less conspicuously than before, the departure of Ugandan armed forces was unlikely to alter economic activities by those powerful individuals in the north-eastern part of the Congo.
Rwanda withdrawal an illusion
The Rwanda army had "replaced Congolese directors of parastatals with businessmen from Kigali to ensure continuing revenue from water, power and transportation facilities." It had further replaced local currency with Rwandan currency. RPA battalions that specialise in mining activities remained in place, "though they have ceased wearing RPA uniforms and will continue the activities under a commercial guise."
The UN Panel's sources had reported that RPA recently undertook an operation to obtain a large number of Congolese passports so as to give an appropriate identity to RPA officers who continue to be stationed at strategically important sites in the Congo.
- Instead of departing for Rwanda, large numbers of Rwandan Hutus serving in RPA have been provided with new uniforms and assigned to Armée Nationale Congolaise [ANC, Rwanda-allied rebels of the RCD-Goma movement] brigades as Congolese Hutu, the report unveils.
Rwanda had "diverted attention from those soldiers staying" in the Congo by drawing particular attention to those who depart. Ceremonies had been held at points of re-entry. "In fact, the number of soldiers who have left" the Congo "is so far only a portion of the total number of RPA troops" in eastern Congo, "which various sources estimate at between 35,000 and 50,000," the UN says.
Zimbabwe goes for illegal government deals
Now, ZDF was establishing new companies and contractual arrangements to defend its economic interests in the longer term should there be a complete withdrawal of its troops. New trade and service agreements had been signed between the Congo and Zimbabwe just prior to the announced withdrawal of ZDF troops from the diamond centre of Mbuji Mayi late in August 2002.
Towards the end of its mandate, the UN Panel had received a copy of a memorandum dated August 2002 from the Congolese Defence Minister, Sidney Sekeramayi, to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, proposing that a joint Zimbabwe-Congo company be set up in Mauritius to disguise the continuing economic interests of ZDF in the Congo.
The memorandum is partly reproduces in the UN report and states: "Your Excellency would be aware of the wave of negative publicity and criticism that the DRC-Zimbabwe joint ventures have attracted, which tends to inform the current United Nations Panel investigations into our commercial activities."
The document also refers to plans to set up a private Zimbabwean military company to guard Zimbabwe's economic investments in the Congo after the planned withdrawal of ZDF troops. It states that this company was formed to operate alongside a new military company owned by the Congo.
While Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe are preparing for the further illegal resource exploitation in the Congo, local militias and local politicians had "supplemented the role that state armies previously played in ensuring access to and control of valuable resources and diverting state revenue."
The looting that was previously conducted by the armies themselves had been "replaced with organised systems of embezzlement, tax fraud, extortion, the use of stock options as kickbacks and diversion of State funds conducted by groups that closely resemble criminal organisations," the UN report concludes.
The report also recommended that financial restrictions be placed on 29 companies based in Belgium, Rwanda, Uganda, Congo Kinshasa, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and a travel ban and financial restrictions imposed on 54 persons, including Augustin Katumba Mwanke, Congolese Minister of Presidency, Kibassa Maliba, a former Minister of Mines, and Mwana Nanga Mawapanga, a Congolese Ambassador in Harare.
Sources: Based on UN