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Vol 43 No 21

Published 25th October 2002


Soldiers go, plunderers stay

How occupying generals turned into thieves and how private companies helped them

The multi-billion dollar looting of Congo-Kinshasa's resources continues, threatening hopes for peace and economic reconstruction following the withdrawal of Rwandan, Ugandan and Zimbabwean troops. That is the finding of a new United Nations investigation. In the three areas of Congo where Rwandan, Ugandan and Zimbabwean troops were deployed, a self-sustaining war economy has built up, whose fruits finance conflicts and enrich the narrow band of politicians, military officers and business people whom the UN investigators call 'elite networks'. Exploitative businesses have been built up in coordination with the foreign and Congolese military forces, strong enough to survive the departure of the foreign troops. These parasitic businesses drain hundreds of millions of dollars a year from Congo's economy and state coffers. In areas controlled by the Congolese government, at least US$5 bn. of state mining assets have been transferred to private companies controlled by the foreign elites, with no compensation or benefit for Congo's state Treasury since 1999. The UN Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo estimates the Armée Patriotique Rwandaise has been earning about $320 million a year from commercial operations in eastern Congo (AC Vol 43 No 10). In 33 years in power, Congo's own Mobutu Sese Seko was reckoned to have stolen $5 bn. The Report, released this week, argues that although the regional conflict which drew seven different armies into Congo has diminished, the overlapping micro-conficts that they helped provoke continue (see Box).

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