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UN Condemns Kazini, Saleh

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th November 2001 03:00 AM

THE United Nations’ newly reconstituted panel of experts into the exploitation of the Congo has toned down substantially its criticism of the Uganda government.

THE United Nations’ newly reconstituted panel of experts into the exploitation of the Congo has toned down substantially its criticism of the Uganda government.

By Alfred Wasike THE United Nations’ newly reconstituted panel of experts into the exploitation of the Congo has toned down substantially its criticism of the Uganda government. However, it insisted that “the systematic exploitation of natural resources and wealth of the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo continues unabated.” It criticised UPDF officers including Lt Gen Salim Saleh and Maj. Gen James Kazini for their involvement. It called for sanctions against the exploiters if the situation continues. It also urged the UN to declare a moratorium banning “for a specific period” the purchase of coltan, diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, timber and coffee from the DRC. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has received the new 37-page report and sent it to the Security Council. The report, Addendum to the report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, exonerates the Burundi and Angola governments. The panel, while commending Uganda for setting up of the Justice Porter Commission, said, “While the government of Uganda does not participate in the exploitation activities, the culture in which its military personnel function, tolerates and condones their activities.” “While the effect of the Panel’s report and the significant withdrawal of UPDF troops have given the impression that the exploitation has been reduced, they are in fact continuing,” the report said. “The commercial networks put in place by Ugandan army commanders and their civilian counterparts that were described in the report are still functioning in Oriental Province and Kampala,” it said. It said, “The Trinity and Victoria companies, for example, are still actively exploiting diamonds, gold, coffee and timber.” “The UPDF have thus been able to pull out their troops, while leaving behind structures that permit military officers and associates, including rebel leaders, to continue profiting,” the Panel said. It said, “The commercial activities of senior UPDF officers are public knowledge. In an interview with the Panel in August 2001, the now retired General Salim Saleh admitted that, while never having been in the DRC, one of his companies had been engaged in exporting merchandise to the eastern part of the country.” The Panel quoted Saleh as saying the aircraft transporting his merchandise was initially confiscated by Kazini. “General Kazini, who also participated in the interview, in turn described his role in facilitating the transport of Ugandan merchandise to Kisangani and other areas in the DRC,” the Panel said. “In full control of the areas under his administration, General Kazini and others used this power, as they would have done elsewhere, to establish a mechanism to promote their business interests,” it said. The UN Panel said UPDF officers “usually conduct their business through Congolese affiliates, on whom they bestow power and support.” “This was the case with Jean-Pierre Bemba, Adele Lotsove and, more recently, Roger Lumbala of the now defunct RCD-National, as well as Mbusa Nyamwisi. Sources have informed the Panel that RCD-National was formed by General Kazini in 2000 from RCD-Goma defectors, who gave them Bafwasende as their base,” the Panel said. It said, “Mr Lumbala had signed two commercial agreements bearing the signature of UPDF commander Kahinda Otafiire and Belgian and Austrian parties.” The Panel said UPDF officers are involved in “liberal siphoning off of the customs revenues on the illicit trade between the DRC and Uganda.” “A very credible source informed the Panel in that regard that Mr Nyamwisi ‘skims’ up to $400,000 off the tax revenues collected from the Beni customs post at the Uganda border. According to the same source, Mr Nyamwisi shares this money with General Kazini and General Salim Saleh.” The panel proposed an embargo on the exploiters. “The Security Council may consider the imposition of sanctions. The timing of such sanctions would depend, however, on the evolution of the situation with regard to the exploitation of DRC’s natural resources, as well as developments in the Great Lakes Region.” The panel also recommended that the international community should help the DRC rebuild state institutions “to enable it have effective control over its territory.” The panel said all concessions, signed openly or secretly or under duress, commercial agreements and contracts signed during the era of Laurent-Desire Kabila in 1997-2001 and subsequently under rebel-held areas should be reviewed to correct all the irregularities. The panel noted that Uganda “has some legitimate security threats, which prompted its military intervention in the DRC.” The panel named DRC rebels like Jean-Pierre Bemba, Adele Lotsove, Roger Lumbala, Mbusa Nyamwisi as facilitators of the UPDF officers’ illegal trading in DRC. “There is a link between the continuation of the conflict and the exploitation of the natural resources, in the case of Uganda. Influential Government officials, military officers and businessmen continue to exploit the security situation for their vested commercial interests,” the panel also said. The report said Zimbabwe and Rwanda “have the most important commercial presence in the DRC as a result of their involvement in the war.” They said that the RPA involvement in the DRC war has “developed into a full-scale commercial enterprise.” Acknowledging Rwanda’s security concern, the Panel said “security concerns should not, however, be used as a pretext to maintain a large military presence, which also facilitates continuing exploitation of Congolese resources, in areas of the eastern DRC.” Ends

UN Condemns Kazini, Saleh

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