Printer Friendly

The darlings are falling. (Cover Story/Congo).

Now the untouchables have been touched. Uganda, rwanda and burundi have been named and shamed at last by the UN investigation into the looting of congo's resources. all that is left is for the UN security council to put the icing on the cake. Africa cannot wait. Baffour Ankomah reports.

Finally, Nemesis has caught up with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of Congo, which was set up in June last year, headed by Madam Safiatou BaN'Daw (from Core d'Ivoire), finally reported in mid-April and confirmed what New African has been saying for the past 18 months: That the looting of Congo's natural resources by Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the rebels they support, is, (according to the Panel) "taking place at an alarming rate

Going by natural resources, Congo is by far the richest African country, but it is poor because its resources have always been siphoned out to benefit outsiders.

The UN Panel had limited time at its disposal, and "given the high number of natural resources found in Congo", it concentrated on a few minerals - primarily coltan, diamonds, gold, cassiterite, and forest and agricultural products such as timber, coffee, ivory, wildlife and other forms of wealth, primarily taxes.

In all these categories, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the rebels they support were found wanting.

Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia

Though the Panel says it did nor receive enough cooperation or "the same quantity and quality of darn" from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (who are in Congo at the invitation of the government in Kinshasa), the Panel's definition of "illegal exploitation" was always going to let Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia off the hook.

"In the Panel's view, the understanding of illegality is underpinned by four elements all related to the rule of law," the report says.

The first, "violation of sovereignty, is based on the Security Council's understanding of illegality...

"This posits that all activities - extraction, product on, commercialisation and exports - taking place in Congo without the consent of the legitimate government are illegal. This interpretation suggested that only non-invited forces and their nationals are carrying out illegal activities in Congo."

The second is, "respect by actors of the existing regulatory framework in the country or territory where they operate...

"The Panel considers that if authorities exerting effective power and control over their sovereign area recognise or set up a regulatory framework to govern the use or exploitation of resources, this framework shall be respected. Failure to do so may lead to the infringement of the law and, therefore, activities considered illegal or unlawful. In this case, the Panel deems illegality to be the carrying our of an activity in violation of an existing body of regulations."

The third is, "the discrepancy between widely accepted practices in trade and business and the way business is done in Congo... This includes forced monopoly in trading, the unilateral fixing of prices of products by the buyer, the confiscation or looting of products from farmers, and the use of military forces in various zones to protect some interests or to create a situation of monopoly."

The fourth, "the violation of international law, including 'soft' law", is considered by the Panel to mean "business activities carried our in violation of international law".

The word, "exploitation", the Panel says, was used in the report in its "broad understanding and interpretation... Exploitation was used beyond the mere consideration of production and extraction. It was viewed as all activities that enable actors and stakeholders to engage in business in first, secondary and tertiary sectors... The broad interpretation enabled the Panel to look into extraction, production, commercialisation and exports of natural resources and other services such as transport and financial transactions.

The aggressors

Apart from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, there are three main rebel groups in Congo. There is the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCDComa) based in Goma and led by Adolphe Onosumba. Supported by Rwanda, RCD-Coma occupies the whole of eastern Congo, northern Katanga and parts of central Congo.

There is also RCD-Bunia (also known as RCD-ML) based in Bunia and led by Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. Supported by Uganda, RCD-Bunia occupies the extremities of northeastern Congo.

The third major rebel group is the Mouvement de Liberation Congolais (MLC) based in Gbadolite, led by Jean Pierre Bemba and supported by Uganda. The MLC recently merged with RCDBunia to form the Front de Liberation du Congo (FLC), again supported by Uganda.

The Panel says between September 1998 and August 1999, the occupied zones of Congo were drained of existing stockpiles of minerals, agricultural and forest products, including livestock.

"Regardless of the looter, the pattern was the same. Burundian, Rwandan, Ugandan and/or RCD soldiers, commanded by an officer, visited farms, storage facilities, factories, banks, and demanded that the managers open the coffers and doors. The soldiers were then ordered to remove the relevant products and load them into vehicles."

(Names are mentioned, but for legal reasons we will withhold them in this article). Ugandan high officials - both military and civilian, ranging from relatives of President Museveni to military officers, have all helped themselves to Congo's wealth. It is ditto in Rwanda and Burundi.

"When resource stockpiles were looted and exhausted by occupying forces and their allies, the exploitation evolved to an active extraction phase," the Panel says.

"On the basis of eyewitness accounts, satellite images, key actors' acknowledgements and the Panel's own investigation, there is sufficient evidence to prove that timber extraction is directly related to the Ugandan presence in Orientale Province. This has reached alarming proportions and Ugandans (civilians, soldiers and companies) are extensively involved in these activities."

The Panel says "Burundians and Rwandans have also extracted timber or have been associated with Congolese loggers".

In the mining sector, direct extraction was carried out in three ways: (a) by individual soldiers for their own benefit; (b) by locals organised by Rwandan and Ugandan commanders; and (c) by foreign nationals for the army or commanders' benefit.

"The last pattern of organised extraction by the occupying forces involves the import of manpower for mining. Occupying forces brought manpower from their own countries and provided the necessary security and logistics. In particular, Rwanda utilised prisoners to dig coltan in exchange for a sentence reduction and limited cash to buy food.

"The Panel was recently informed that there is a presence of 1,500 Rwandan prisoners in the Numbi area of Kalehe. According to the same report, these prisoners were seen mining coltan while guarded by [Rwandan] soldiers."

Col-tan (or columbite-tantalite) is the "new" miracle metal to come from Africa, used in the high-tech and aerospace industries for anything ranging from mobile phones, space crafts and stations, computers, playstations, electronic capacitors and rectifiers, surgery and dental tools, turbine blades, in fact anything that needs passive capacitors to maintain the electric charge of a computer microchip.

Coltan is so crucial to the global economy that "poor" Africa has, once again, become the granary of the world. The shiny grey metal is found in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and elsewhere, but some of the highest grade ones are found in eastern Congo occupied by Rwanda, Uganda and the rebels.

Coltan looms large in the UN Panel report. It says the aggressors are using child labour to mine coltan, gold and other minerals.

The looting, the Panel says, is facilitated by the administrative structures established by Uganda and Rwanda.

"On the Ugandan, MLC and RCD-ML side, rebel leaders and Ugandan military officers created new companies and businesses using prete-noms."

On the Rwandan side, the report says, "most companies with important activities related to the natural resources of Congo are owned either by the government or by individuals very close to the inner circle of President [Paul] Kagame... The government of Rwanda made arrangements with RCD-Goma to drain resources from Congo".


The Panel says Uganda gave it extensive data regarding its exports, but it contained substantial discrepancies. "First, export figures for gold are consistently greater than production values," the report says.

"The Central Bank of Uganda has reportedly acknowledged to IMF officials that the volume of Ugandan gold exports does not reflect [the] country's production levels but rather that some exports might be 'leaking over the borders' from Congo.

"The Central Bank reported that, by September 1997, Uganda had exported gold valued at $105m, compared with $60m in 1996 and $23m in 1995."

Regarding diamonds, the Panel found Uganda's exports "suspicious" for many reasons: "(a) Uganda has no known diamond production; (b) Diamond exports from Uganda [began] only in the last few years, coinciding surprisingly with the occupation of eastern Congo; and (c) the need [for Uganda] to control the rich diamond zone near Kisangani and Banalia."

The Panel says there are indications that Uganda exported more diamonds, from 1997 onwards, than the figures showed.

Uganda has also become an exporter of niobium, another mineral similar to coltan, but the Panel says Uganda had "no production [of niobium] prior to 1997", coinciding with its presence in Congo.

Uganda's "sudden increase in the import of [the mineral] cassiterite may also mean an increase in the import of coltan. The Panel discovered that cassiterite is often listed in lieu of coltan, as coltan possesses a higher value, which implies high import taxes in Uganda."

On military expenditure, the Panel says "Uganda officially spends 2% of its GDP on defence, which is being monitored by the Bretton Woods institutions. For the fiscal year 2000, the defence budget was about $ll0m. This covers pay of about $70 per month for 50,000 soldiers, 10,000 of whom are stationed in Congo...

"The budget line for pay alone for a year is about $41m for the 50,000 soldiers. If a bonus of $20 is paid to each of the 10,000 soldiers [in Congo], that would amount to $200,000 per month (in 1998 and 1999), a total of $2.4m per year...

"[The armed forces] spends on average $12.96m per year on transportation alone... [In total] Uganda spent about $126m on its armed forces in 1999, an overspending of about $16m.


The Panel says the Rwandan authorities themselves admitted that the country "has no production of diamond, cobalt, zinc, manganese and uranium. Yet there is substantial evidence from the World Trade Organisation, the Diamond High Council and Belgian statistics that Rwanda has been exporting diamonds".

Rwanda's production figures, the report says, display some irregular patterns for gold and coltan starting from 1997. "It is revealing that the increase in production of these two minerals appeared to happen while the AFDL [led by the late President Kabila], backed by Rwandan troops, was raking over power in Kinshasa."

The report says Rwanda spends about 3% of its GDP or 29% of its annual budget on defence. In the current fiscal year, $70m was allocated to defence in the national budget. The Panel reckons that Rwanda needs 25,000 soldiers to cover the area of Congo under its occupation.

"An aircraft owner operating in the region has indicated that he charges on average $2,000 per hour... The Panel estimates five rotations for Rwanda at an average of six hours each. A simple calculation gives a figure of $1.8m per month and $21.6m per year.

"Based on the minimum number of 25,000 soldiers, and an average of $100 for pay and bonuses, the Panel calculated a total of $2.5m per month and $30m per year. Transportation and pay of troops alone in Congo amount to $51.6m per year, which is about three-quarters of the total Rwandan official defence budget.

"By taking into consideration the remaining 20,000 soldiers stationed in Rwanda and their average pay of $50 per month, almost the total defence budget ($63m) is used on two items...

"All military experts consulted suggested that the official defence budget of Rwanda cannot alone cover the cost of their war and presence in Congo. The Panel concurs with President Kagame who described the conflict in Congo as a 'self financing war'."


The report says an IMF office memo indicates that "Burundi does not produce gold, diamonds, coltan, copper, cobalt, or basic metals". Yet the Panel found that "Burundi has been exporting minerals it does not produce.

"As in the case of Uganda and Rwanda, Burundi's export of diamonds dates from 1998, coinciding with the occupation of eastern Congo. The coltan exports span a longer period (1995-1999), perhaps suggesting that this might be a regular activity."

Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia

The Panel says only third party sources were used to determine whether production and export trends in the three countries showed abnormalities. "Available production and export statistics relative to Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe were fairly normal in terms of trend. They did not reveal any suspicious behaviour." But the Panel warns that "additional data are needed for a definite stand on the issue. In the case of Zimbabwe, accounts of ongoing and pending deals give clear indications of their potential impact on the balance of payments."

Interestingly, the Panel found "Zimbabwe's overall defence budget has been decreasing at the very moment that [it] has troops engaged in Congo. A reduction was announced early in January 2000, lowering the budget from Z$15.3bn in 2000 to Z$13.3bn in 2001. Yet [Zimbabwe] with approximately 10,000 troops in Congo spent an average US$3m per month, a total of US$36m in a year."

Financing the war

"The question is: how do the different parties finance their war effort?", the Panel asks and provides the answer:

RWANDA: "The economies of Rwanda and Uganda, unlike those of Angola and Namibia, have to varying extents financially benefited from the conflict. Zimbabwe is a special case given the potential of concessions attributed to Zimbabwean companies..."

The Panel estimates that the Rwandan army could have made $20m per month, or at least $250m over a period of 18 months, simply selling the coltan that intermediaries buy from small dealers at $10 per kilo. "This is substantial enough to finance the war," the report says. "Here lies the vicious circle of the war. Coltan has permitted the Rwandan army to sustain its presence in Congo."

UGANDA: The Panel says unlike Rwanda, Uganda did not set up an extra-budgetary system to finance the Congo war. "The regular defence budget is used and broadly the deficit is handled by the treasury," says the report.

"However, the Ugandan economy benefited from the conflict through the re-exportation economy. In turn, the treasury benefited and this allowed an increase in the defence budget.

"The re-exportation economy implies that natural resources imported from Congo are repackaged or sealed as Ugandan natural resources or products and re-exported. That is the case for some gold, diamonds, coltan and coffee exported by Uganda. The re-exportation economy has had a tremendous impact on the financing of the war...

"The illegal exploitation of gold in Congo brought a significant improvement in the balance of payments of Uganda. This, in turn, gave multilateral donors, especially the IMF which was monitoring the Ugandan treasury situation, more confidence in the Ugandan economy...

"The improvement in GDP has permitted, according to Ugandan officials, an increase in absolute terms of the military budget while keeping the level of the military budget at the agreed 2% of GDP.

"The apparent strength of the Ugandan economy has given more confidence to investors and bilateral and multilateral donors who, by maintaining their level of cooperation and assitance to Uganda, gave the government room to spend more on security matters while other sectors, such as education, health and governance, are being taken care of by the bilateral and multilateral aid.

REBELS: The report says "officially" they receive the bulk of their military equipment from the Ugandan and Rwandan armies.

ZIMBABWE: The Panel says Harare has financed its war effort in two different ways: "(a) by using the defence budget -- the bulk of Zimbabwe's military expenses seem to be covered by the regular budget; and (b) by indirect financing through direct payment by some Congolese entities, mainly companies."

Zimbabwean companies have also entered into joint ventures that have led to their receiving "interesting mining concessions or using their influence with the government of Congo to develop business partnerships with private companies and parastatals. Part of the receipts from these ventures goes into financing the war.

Presidents in the dock

The Panel says it will not make allegations about the personal involvement of presidents in the looting of Congo's resources until further investigations are carried out.

However, it says, the "role" of Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, "has remained pivotal. This role can be situated on three levels: his relations with the Rwandan business community operating in Congo, control over the army, and the structure involved in the illegal activities...

"The president has admitted in the past that the conflict in Congo was self-financing. All these elements combined suggest the president's degree of knowledge of the situation, his implicit approval of the continuation of the [looting] and somehow his complicity as well as his political and moral responsibility."

Regarding the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, the Panel says "his policy towards the rebel movements, his attitude towards the army and the protection provided to illegal activities and their perpetrators" sums up his role in the continuation of the war and the looting of Congo's resources.

Museveni "has shaped the rebellion in the area controlled by Uganda according to his own political philosophy and agenda... The president's family has also been very involved in business in the occupied zones of Congo.

"The Panel concludes that when the information is passed on to the president and he chooses not to act, when he appoints the very people who catty out criminal activities, and when his family members get away with criminal activities, it becomes overwhelming that the president has put himself in the position of accomplice."

The Panel therefore recommends, among other things, that the UN Security Council immediately declare a temporary embargo on the import or export of coltan, niobium, pyrochlore, cassiterite, timber, gold and diamonds from or to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi until those countries involvement in the looting of Congo's resources is made clear and declared so by the Security Council.

The accounts of the rebel movements in Congo and their leaders should also be frozen "without delay". UN member countries should also "immediately" freeze the accounts of the companies and individuals who continue to loot Congo's resources.

Spot the difference

The UN Panel of Experts (on Sierra Leone) published its report last December and recommended sanctions against Liberia. Below are some of the major findings of the report. Compare them to what the UN Panel of Experts (on Congo) found against Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and the rebels they support.

Sierra Leone report:

"Diamonds have become an important resource of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in sustaining and advancing its military ambitions. Estimates of the volume of RUF diamonds vary widely, from as little as $25m per annum to as much as $125m. Whatever the total, it represents a major and primary source of income for the RUF, and is more than enough to sustain its military activities.

A certain volume of RUF diamonds are traded in Kenema and elsewhere in Sierra Leone. These are most likely smuggled out of the country. Some RUF diamonds have also been traded informally in Guinea. But the bulk of the RUF diamonds leave Sierra Leone through Liberia. The diamonds are carried by RUF commanders and trusted Liberian couriers to Foya-Kama or Voinjama, and then to Monrovia. Such trade cannot be conducted without the permission and the involvement of Liberian government officials at the highest level...

In its search for conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone, the Panel discovered that there is a much greater volume of 'illicit' diamonds, and that distinguishing between the two is extremely difficult. A large volume of diamonds entering Europe is disguised as Liberian, Guinean and Gambian in order to evade taxation and launder money.

The report describes flagrant examples in Belgium of fraudulent commercial reporting. A country like Liberia, whose name has been used with or without its knowledge by illicit traders, can thus conceal its own very trade in illicit and conflict diamonds behind larger rackets being perpetrated by others...

President Charles Taylor [of Liberia] is actively involved in fuelling the violence in Sierra Leone, and many businessmen close to his inner-cycle operate on an international scale, sourcing their weaponry mainly in Eastern Europe. One key individual is a wealthy Lebanese businessman...[who] is the inner-circle's paymaster...

In short, Liberia is actively breaking Security Council embargoes regarding weapon imports into its own territory and into Sierra Leone. It is being actively assisted by Burkina Faso [and] countries allowing weapons to pass through or over their territory without question..."

In its defence, Liberia published a paragraph by paragraph rebuttal which said among other things that the Panel was "biased and prejudiced... The extreme prejudice is demonstrated by its recommendation for the imposition of a travel ban on Liberian officials and diplomats by UN member states, a measure which would be unique and unprecedented in the history of the Nations."

Liberia denied almost all the allegations and said "the Panel had the opportunity to present a complete and unbiased report simply by adhering to its own standards which would have entailed [it] confronting the government with the evidence and affording the government the right of reply. All these could have thereafter been included in the report. Unfortunately [the Panel] did not do so..."

However, the UN Security Council was not impressed with Liberia's denials and on 7 March adopted Resolution 1343 which authorised the imposition of sanctions on Liberia "two months after the date of adoption" (ie, 7 May).

"To break the link between diamonds and armed conflicts," the Resolution said, all member countries must "implement fully Security Council measures targeting the link between the trade in conflict diamonds and the supply to rebel movements of weapons, fuel or other prohibited materiel."

The Council said "the active support provided by the government of Liberia for armed rebel groups in neighbouring countries, and in particular its support for the RUF in Sierra Leone, constitutes a threat to international peace and security in the region."

The Council, thus, demanded that Liberia "immediately cease its support for the RUF" and expel all RUF members from Liberia.

It also demanded that all states in the region should take action to prevent armed individuals and groups from using their territory to prepare and commit attacks on neighbouring countries. Interestingly Liberia is currently under attack by rebels operating from Guinea, and though the country organised democratic elections in 1997 leading to the installation of a legitimate government, the UN still maintains the arms embargo on Liberia imposed in 1992 at the height of the country's rebel war.

Resolution 1343 also asked all UN member states to "prevent the direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds from Liberia, whether or not such diamonds originated in Liberia."

The Resolution also called for the imposition of a 12-month travel ban on "senior members of the government of Liberia and its armed forces and their spouses and any other individuals providing Financial and military support to armed rebel groups in countries neighbouring Liberia, in particular the RUF."

Behind every 'successful' darling. Here is a world Bank (Sorry) donor.

Baffour Ankomah.

"The World Bank has praised Uganda for its economic performance and the reforms under the structural adjustment programme as a success story. The Panel has, however, indications that this economic performance was driven in part, especially over the past three years, by the [looting] of the resources of Congo." Welcome to how Africa is run by the World Bank and its friends.

According to the British media, Uganda is not only the "darling of the West" but also "the darling of the Aid world". The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, according to The Independent (of London, 15 March 2001), "is a darling of Western donors because of his successful social and economic reforms. The West pays for half of current government expenditure, and Britain, which has given $80m in the past year, is the biggest donor."

The encomiums heaped on Museveni and Uganda were all very well until the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in Congo published its report on 12 April.

All of a sudden, the donors who like to think of themselves as the "good guys" of the world were swimming in hot waters, having been exposed as mere hypocrites! The world cannot wait to see what the UN Security Council does with the report.

How interesting that while the donors (America and Britain leading the charge) were putting pressure on the UN to impose sanctions on Liberia for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone and "handling conflict diamonds" on their behalf, the same donors were actively funding ("encouraging" is the word used by the UN Panel) Uganda and Rwanda's war in Congo in support of rebels fighting against the central government in Kinshasa.

"The link between the continuation of the [Congo] conflict and the exploitation of natural resources would not have been possible if some entities, not parties in the conflict, had not played a key role, willingly or not," the Panel says.

"Bilateral and multilateral donors and certain neighbouring and distant countries have passively facilitated the exploitation of the resources of Congo and the continuation of the conflict.

"The main bilateral donors of Rwanda and Uganda have been Britain, Denmark, Germany and America in various sectors... The balance of payments of Rwanda shows that budget support has steadily increased, from $26.lm in 1997 to $51.5m in 1999.

"While such support is legitimate, the problem is that expenditures and services which were supposed to be provided and covered by the governments of Rwanda and Uganda and which are covered by the bilateral aid constitute savings in the national budget. Were these savings used to finance the war [in Congo?]."

For unexplained reasons, the Panel refrained from answering the question itself or seeking answers to it. But nobody is fooled. No African country fighting a destructive war in another country will have such huge donor support as Uganda and Rwanda have had in the past three years, if the donors do not approve of the war or see the war as serving their national and strategic interests (see the comparison with Liberia and Sierra Leone on p33).

"The German ambassador in Kigali [the capital of Rwanda]," the report says, "told the Panel about German support for German business dealing in [the minerals] pyrochlore and coltan in occupied Congo [areas under rebel and Ugandan-Rwandan-Burundian control].

"In this particular case, German cooperation has given a preferential loan of DM500,000 to Karl Heinz Albers, a German citizen, to expand his coltan business in Congo and Mr Albers' business is guarded by [the rebel] RCD-Goma soldiers."

The World Sank

While the Panel shies from censuring the governments of Britain, Denmark, Germany and America for the huge financial, moral and political support they have given Uganda and Rwanda since 1997, it has harsh words for the World Bank and the other multilateral donors.

"The World Bank," the report says, "has praised Uganda for its economic performance and the reforms under the structural adjustment programme as a success story and has promoted its case for the new debt relief programme, the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

"The Panel has, however, indications that [Uganda's] economic performance was driven in part, especially over the past three years, by the exploitation of the resources of Congo.

"Notes exchanged between World Bank staff clearly show that the Bank was informed about a significant increase in gold and diamond exports from a country that produces very little of these minerals or exports quantities of gold that it could not produce.

"Internal discussions of the World Bank staff also confirm this knowledge of the situation: in one of those internal exchanges, a staff member warned his colleague that the World Bank's silence would blow up in the Bank's face."

The Panel says the Bank "never questioned" the increasing exports of resources by Uganda, and in one instance a staff member of the Bank even defended Uganda's exports.

"During the Panel's visit to Uganda," the report reveals, "the representative of the [World] Bank dismissed any involvement of Uganda in the exploitation of [Congo's] resources.

"The Bank not only encouraged Uganda and Rwanda indirectly by defending their case, but equally gave the impression of rewarding them by proposing these countries [Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi] for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries debt relief initiative.

"The Bank's shadow on the conflict in Congo is even more apparent on the budget. The balance of payments of both Uganda and Rwanda shows a significant increase in long-term borrowing in support of the budget.

"The defence budget, however, has increased in absolute terms, allowing Uganda and Rwanda to continue the conflict, During the Cambodian crisis in the 1980s, the Bank turned a blind eye to the illicit exploitation of Cambodian timber; the question is whether it is World Bank policy to ignore broad governance issues (hard or soft) while dealing with its clients."

Perhaps a more pertinent question here would have been: "Who controls the World Bank?" Or whether the Bank can do anything that its major financiers do not want it to do?

Foreign companies

Most people would be sorely disappointed by the Panel's muffled voice regarding the role of multinational companies in the Congo conflict. Some foreign companies, like the Belgian airline Sabena, are criticised for facilitating the looting of Congo's resources, but these are the small fliers in the Congo equation. The big fliers are not mentioned at all.

Yet the report criticises (rightly) the late Congolese president, Laurent Kabila, for bearing "part of the responsibility for the current situation

"As the chief of AFDL [the rebel coalition that overthrew President Mobutu in May 1997]," the Panel says, "[Kabila] created a precedent in giving a character of 'legality' or legitimacy to otherwise illegal operations. During his advance on Kinshasa, he granted [mining and other] concessions even though he did not have authority to do so. These are the same methods being used by some armed groups to fight for power.

But if it takes two to tango, the multinationals who got the concessions from Kabila knowing that he "did not have the authority to do so" (because at the time there was still a legitimate central government in Kinshasa headed by Mobutu), should equally be censured. But the report is silent on them.

And not that the multinationals hid their intentions. On 22 April 1997, The Times (of London) had reported:

"Mining multinationals have signed billion-dollar deals for mineral rights with Laurent Kabila, Zaire's rebel leader, to get ahead in what is being billed as 'the second scramble for Africa'.

"Mining giants such as De Beers and American Mineral Fields have signed contracts, which are worth at least $3 billion a year, to develop Zaire's copper, cobalt, gold, zinc and diamond deposits with [Kabila's rebel] forces, cutting the legally recognised government [of Mobutu] out of the picture.

"Executives with the companies said that they are happy to be doing business with the rebels, who control all of Zaire's mineral resources other than its offshore oil fields, because they do not ask for bribes.

"De Beers has also ditched its relationship with the fast-crumbling regime of President Mobutu and signed up with the rebels to get involved in a $500m a year diamond business.

"The unusual alliance between big business and revolutionaries, many of whom were Chinese-trained Maoists and Marxists in their youth, has been accepted by Western governments who see Mr Kabila as a man to lead Zaire out of three decades of corruption and staggering poverty.

"This week, American Mineral Fields signed three contracts worth $885m which would give the mining house access to the vast metal reserves of Shaba [Katanga] Province.

"Other multinationals have been asked to provide satellite telephones to the rebels who have argued that without them they would be unable to negotiate mineral rights deals internationally...

"Kenneth MacLeod, president of International Panorama Resource Corporation of Vancouver, [Canada] said: 'We are going to capitalise on the current strife [in Congo] by increasing our presence and our land holdings in the country'.

"Another mining magnate based in Johannesburg gave the second scramble a historic twist: 'Cecil Rhodes must be spinning in his grave at the opportunities he is missing'."

This is the sort of skulduggery employed, for decades, by Western governments, multinationals, agencies and individuals to keep weak-headed African leaders and people enthralled in their power. Yet the UN report is all quiet about it.

Small flies

"The Panel," the report says, "has gathered information showing that linkages between different actors and stakeholders are very well structured to the point that governments and large reputable companies operate in confidence.

"In the case of coltan, all the needed documentation for its export is provided in Kigali [capital of Rwanda], but there are accomplices in Kinshasa in the Ministry of Mines. The importing companies and their facilitators are aware of the real origin of the coltan, however.

"According to manifests that the Panel received, Sabena Cargo as well as SDV of the Bollore group have been among the key companies in the chain of exploitation and continuation of [the Congo] war...

"The Panel also has indications of the direct and indirect involvement of some staff of the embassies and cooperation agencies of developed countries. They have facilitated the purchase of illegal minerals.

"The US honorary consul in Bukavu, as he presented himself, Ramnik O. Kotecha, in addition to promoting deals between American companies and coltan dealers in the region, is himself chairman of the Kotecha group of companies based in Bukavu and deals in coltan."

Sabena and SDV are condemned in the report for the transport of coltan, and Citibank for facilitating the financial transactions involved. But the real big hitters are allowed to go scot free, unnamed and unshamed.

The Panel, however, criticises "the rush to profit of some foreign companies that were ready to do business regardless of elements of unlawfulness and irregularities.

"The role of the private sector in the exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the war has been vital. A number of companies have been involved and have fuelled the war directly, trading arms for natural resources.

"Others have facilitated access to financial resources which are used to purchase weapons. Companies trading minerals which the Panel considered to be 'the engine of the conflict in Congo' have prepared the field for illegal mining activities in the country."

The Panel also criticises "the political legitimisation provided by some developed countries" to the aggressors in Congo. In November last year, the Panel says, it was told in Kigali that the looting of Congo's resources and the financial gains of the Rwandan army were "justified as the repayment for the security that Rwanda provides".


The Panel, therefore, recommends that the UN Security Council request the World Bank and IMF to consider suspending their support to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi until the end of the conflict.

"If within two months after the publication of this report, clear evidence and signs of the disengagement of these countries from the exploitation of the natural resources of Congo are not given to the Security Council, cooperation between [the World Bank and IMF] and the countries involved should be suspended," says the Panel.

"The World Bank and IMF should design a policy guideline on cooperation between each institution and countries involved in conflicts... All military cooperation with [the] states whose forces are present in Congo in violation of its sovereignty be suspended immediately until those armies withdraw from Congo," the Panel further recommends.

"All diamond dealers operating in the [areas of Congo] occupied by foreign forces should immediately stop doing business with the rebels and Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Failure to do so should lead to action through the World Diamond Council...

"The governments of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda and their allies should pay compensation to the companies [in Congo] whose properties and stocks of coltan, cassiterite, gold, timber and other materials [were] confiscated between 1998 and 2000."

The Panel also recommends that UN member countries should adopt legislation that forbids companies registered in their territories from importing or exporting natural resources to or from invading countries.

The ball is now in the Security Council's court.

American responsibilities

When Joseph Kabila visited the US in March, he met with the Corporate Council on Africa and was introduced by Maurice Templesman, the international diamond merchant who is said to be influential in many African affairs, past and present. Joseph promised to liberalise the oil and diamond sectors and also to draw a new mining code.

This has reassured corporations like Chevron that has $75m in investments in Congo. Chevron is connected with Condoleeza Rice, America's new national security adviser. Condoleeza is highly regarded by Chevron, a company that named an oil tanker after her. She has once sat on Chevron's board.

But a report published in March by the US-based Arms Trade Resource Centre entitled "Deadly Legacy; US Arms and Training in Africa", written by William D. Hartung, director of the Resource Centre, is doubtful whether America will make any significant changes to its Congo policy which is driven by commerce.

"The US has disengaged itself from humanitarian issues, but not military and economic issues," the report said. This appears to be confirmed by the appointment of Collin Powell as secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice as national security advisor and Walter Kansteiner, as assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

Hartung, an African-American, argues that "given the military, security and corporate backgrounds [of Powell, Rice and Kansteiner], they lack humanitarian experience and perspective that are essential for crafting a constructive policy towards Congo."

Kansteiner, for example, held a position at the Department of Defence working on the strategic minerals task force, and was a former executive vice president of a commodity trading and manufacturing firm that dealt with developing countries. He is a believer in market-oriented economic reforms and is expected to follow an economically driven policy rather than one based on humanitarian concerns.

Despite the recent UN report condemning Uganda for looting Congo's resources, there has been no significant change in America's policy towards Uganda. Washington still considers Uganda as a strategic partner.

Recent reports have said America and Britain are reluctant to see Uganda and Rwanda suffer sanctions as demanded by the UN Congo report. This is because London and Washington still see Uganda and Rwanda as "strategic allies" in the Great Lakes Region.

This year, according to State Department sources, America will give Uganda $53m in aid. Though it is a decline from the $60m of last year, Uganda is still among the five largest recipients of US aid. The decline represents a cutting down of aid across the board, and not targeted to Uganda specifically.

Uganda's strategic importance to America was also underscored by the opening on 23 April of the $57m American embassy in Kampala by President Museveni. This at a time when US diplomatic presence in Africa is being cut back.

Some analysts doubt whether the Security Council can take tough action against Uganda. First, Western corporate ties with Uganda are well publicised. In fact Uganda's military meddling in the region has benefited both American and British corporate interests.

Under the Clinton administration, America did nor only rely on the views of Uganda and Rwanda, but also armed and trained their armies. According to the World Policy Institute, America supplied military assistance worth $225m to armies involved in the Congo war, ostensibly to stabilise the region.

William Hartung and Bridget Moix of the World Policy Institute say America's policy has been injurious to Africa. "The US bears responsibility for the circle of violence and economic problems plaguing Africa, for, though out of the Cold War, America supplied $l.5bn worth of arms to clients like Somalia, Congo [under Mobutu] and Sudan - countries that have turned into basket cases for violence and economic instability."

The endangering of Congo and the heinous humanitarian crisis it has produced is the worst byproduct, so far, of the US policy. The Congo war has claimed nearly 3 million people, according to the International Rescue Committee. The Congolese refugee population in Uganda alone is over 1.2 million.

Which is all very strange because Africa is important to America - 20% of US oil needs come from Africa, and trade amounting to over $200bn a year goes on between America and Africa.

"US investments in gas, telecoms and soft drinks are more in Africa than the Middle East and Eastern Europe: and its trade with Africa is more than that of all former communist countries combined," says Peter Lewis, an analyst. "US direct investments in Africa's petroleum sector exceed its stake in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia."

It is these commercial interests that will overshadow all other American considerations in Africa under the new Bush administration. But at the end of the day, having led the recent chant at the UN for sanctions agains Liberia for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone - a precedent of high importance - America and Britain should not be allowed to stymie Security Council action against Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi for doing fur worse in Congo.

Crespo Sebunya
Uganda: mineral export and production, 1994-2000

Year Gold Tin Coltan Cobalt

A. Mineral exports (tons)

1994 0.22 - - -
1995 3.09 - - -
1996 5.07 3.55 - -
1997 6.82 4.43 2.57 -
1998 5.03 - 18.57 -
1999 11.45 - 69.5 67.48
2000 10.83 - - 275.98

B. Mineral production (tons)

1994 0.0016 3.704 0.435 -
1995 0.0015 4.289 1.824 -
1996 0.003 0.38 - -
1997 0.0064 1.81 - -
1998 0.0082 1.102 - -
1999 0.0047 - - 76.74
2000 0.0044 - - 287.51

Source: Uganda, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development
Some companies importing Congo minerals via Rwanda

Company Country Merchandise
 of destination

Cogem Belgium cassiterites
Muka-Enterprise Belgium cassiterites
Issa Germany cassiterites
Chpistopa Floss Germany cassiterites
Redemi Rwanda cassiterites
Banro-Res Corp Malaysia cassiterites,
Bharat Tanzania cassiterites
Extano-Office Rwanda coltan
Coopimar Rwanda coltan
Geologistics Hannover Germany coltan
Rwasibo-Butera Switzerland coltan
Eaglewings Netherlands coltan
Veen Netherlands coltan
Soger Belgium coltan
Patel Warehouse Netherlands coltan
Afrimex UK coltan
 Netherlands coltan
Chimie Netherlands coltan
 Belgium coltan
Sogem Belgium coltan, tin,
Cogecom Belgium coltan,
Cogea Belgium coltan
Panalpina Kenya coltan
Tradement Belgium coltan,
Ventro Star UK coltan
Raremet India coltan
Finconord Pakistan coltan
Finiming Ltd. Belgium coltan
Finconcorde Russia cassiterites,
Patel India cassiterites
Cicle International Belgium coltan
Masingiro Germany coltan
Union-Transport Germany coltan
Specialty Metal Belgium coltan
MDW Belgium cassiterites,
Transintra Belgium cassiterites

Source: Rwandan Revenue Authority
COPYRIGHT 2001 IC Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:diamond smuggling in Africa
Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Previous Article:Congo: Business as usual? (New African Market).
Next Article:A society like ours has no need of slaves. (Africa/Cocoa).

Related Articles
Mineral potential of Central Africa.
Dirty dealings.
Diamonds Smugglers defy international pressure.
De Beers moves to clean up: Dirty diamonds?
DRC sparks and sparklers.
Looking for scapegoats.
Diamonds are not enough: the Central African Republic, once the 'personal domain' of 'Emperor' Jean Badel Bokassa, seemed to have disappeared off the...
Dying for a diamond? 'Blood diamonds' still fuel conflict.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2015 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters