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05 Dec 2003 00:00
A confidential United Nations report has accused Rwanda, Uganda and elements within the new transitional government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of continuing to arm militias in the country to keep control of the rich diamond and gold fields.
The document, part of a longer report on the exploitation of the DRC’s mineral resources published in October, was sent privately to the UN Security Council because of its “highly sensitive” information.
If the allegations are true they will sorely test the 10 000-strong UN military mission trying to bring order to the country.
The report is also likely to embarrass the British government, the biggest bilateral aid donor to both Uganda and Rwanda.
The former international development minister, Clare Short, was a defender of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
One of the most explosive allegations is that the veteran opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi, who returned to the DRC in September after two years in exile in South Africa, is preparing a rebellion, with the support and advice of Rwanda, in the central province of Kasai Oriental.
Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), refused to join the transitional government in June after he was denied one of the four vice-presidencies.
Observers believe the report’s allegations against Tshisekedi may have been overtaken by events. After being excluded from the new government he allied himself with the Rwandan-backed rebel group Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and denounced President Joseph Kabila as a new dictator.
The machinations of the Rwandan military “are considered to be the most serious threat” to the government in Kinshasa, the report says. It alleges that Rwandan officers are providing training and arms for two other militia groups in the east, including the Congolese National Army (ANC), the military wing of the former rebel faction RCD-Goma, whose leader is now one of the four vice-presidents.
The report says that evidence from internal documents shows that money for the arms is raised through the sale of minerals owned by the Congo Holding Development Company, a mining and trading firm based in Goma. The company was set up by Gertrude Kitembo, a senior member of RCD-Goma and now Minister of Telecommunications. In a previous report the UN panel recommended financial sanctions against the company.
The other Rwandan-armed group, the Union of Congolese Patriots, is under direct control of the Rwandan army’s high command, the report says. Rwanda formally withdrew its troops from the DRC last year.
Uganda, whose troops were pulled out in May, is accused of protecting its commercial interests through three proxy militias operating in the prosperous Ituri district.
Receipts obtained by the panel suggest that one of the militias is directly funded by President Yoweri Museveni’s office. — Â
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