In 2002, a scathing U.N report pointedly accused a bouquet of international companies, mainly British and German, of helping to plunder resources of a war-torn African country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This U.N report acknowledges that "The Democratic Republic of the Congo is located in the heart of equatorial central Africa and has an area of 2,267,600 square kilometres and a current population estimated at 50 million. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is endowed with a unique biodiversity, vast mineral and forest resources, and rich soils conducive to agriculture. These favourable conditions, concentrated in the eastern regions, are the setting for the current ongoing occupation and struggle to exploit these natural resources."
In its summary, the report noted that "Illegal exploitation of the mineral and forest resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is taking place at an alarming rate. Two phases can be distinguished: mass-scale looting and the systematic and systemic exploitation of natural resources." In both phases, the report observes that "... exploitation was often carried out in violation of the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the national legislation and sometimes international law, and it led to illicit activities. Key individual actors including top army commanders and businessmen on the one hand, and government structures on the other, have been the engines of this systematic and systemic exploitation."
The report further insists that "The consequence of illegal exploitation has been twofold: (a) massive availability of financial resources for the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and the individual enrichment of top Ugandan military commanders and civilians; (b) the emergence of illegal networks headed either by top military officers or businessmen." "These two elements form the basis of the link between the exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict." the report concludes.
The report goes on to state that "The illegal exploitation of resources by Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda took different forms, including confiscation, extraction, forced monopoly and price-fixing. Of these, the first two reached proportions that made the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a very lucrative business." Some of the facilitators that drove this lucrativeness, stretched as far away as New York where Citibank served as a corresponding bank for this illegal enterprise soaked with the blood of innocent Congolese people. The report confirms that the sum of $3.5 million was paid as a contribution from MIBA to the AFDL war effort through a Citibank account.
The report tells us that "Between September 1998 and August 1999, occupied zones of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were drained of existing stockpiles, including minerals, agricultural and forest products and 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 and 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. The Panel received numerous accounts and claims of unlawful removal of products by Rwandan or Ugandan armies and their local RCD allies."
An example confirmed by the panel through one of several reports made to it cites the looting of SOMINKI (Société minière et industrielle du Kivu) seven years’ worth of columbo-tantalite (coltan) stocked in various areas. "Depending on the sources, between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of cassiterite and between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of coltan were removed from the region between November 1998 and April 1999." the report stated. "The link between the continuation of the 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. Bilateral and multilateral donors and certain neighbouring and distant countries have passively facilitated the exploitation of the resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the continuation of the conflict; the role of private companies and individuals has also been vital." the report underlines.
The U.N report goes on to confirm that "The main bilateral donors to Rwanda and Uganda have been the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Denmark, Germany and the United States of America in various sectors." Even where some of these donations have been designated for assistance related to poverty, education and governance, it remains unclear if they were ever applied to those effects. So, despite an increase from $26.1 million in 1997 to $51.5 in 1999 in bilateral aids, monitoring the application of these funds has remained ever elusive, as they are chalked up as savings in the national budgets of the Rwandan and Ugandan governments, thus shrouding oversight and retaining spending initiative with the governments concerned. It would not be rocket science to arrive at the educated conclusion that these extra source of funding were applied in their entirety to creating conflicts and rebellion in the DRC.
Considering that the German Ambassador bragged to the U.N panel undertaking this investigation about his home government's "... support to German business dealing in pyrochlore and coltan in the occupied Democratic Republic of the Congo." and also considering that "... German cooperation has given a preferential loan of DM 500,000 to Karl Heinz Albers, a German citizen, to expand his coltan business in the (occupied) Democratic Republic of the Congo (SOMIKIVU) and Mr. Albers’s business is guarded by RCD-Goma soldiers." the involvement of Western governments in this scam and bloodletting becomes most alarming.
The U.N report notes that "The World Bank 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 initiative." This, despite the fact that the U.N panel had revealed "... indications that this economic performance was driven in part, especially over the past three years, by the exploitation of the resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo." and whereas "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." The report also reveals that "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 silence would blow up in the Bank’s face."
The U.N panel finally concludes, amongst other observations, that:
(a) The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become mainly about access, control and trade of five key mineral resources: coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold. The wealth of the country is appealing and hard to resist in the context of lawlessness and the weakness of the central authority.
(b) Exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by foreign armies has become systematic and systemic. Plundering, looting and racketeering and the constitution of criminal cartels are becoming commonplace in occupied territories. These criminal cartels have ramifications and connections worldwide, and they represent the next serious security problem in the region.
(c) 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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo” have prepared the field for illegal mining activities in the country.
(d) Bilateral and multilateral donors have sent mixed signals to Governments with armies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
(e) Top military commanders from various countries, for different reasons, needed and continue to need this conflict for its lucrative nature and for temporarily solving some internal problems in those countries as well as allowing access to wealth. They have realized that the war has the capacity to sustain itself, and therefore have created or protected criminal networks that are likely to take over fully if all foreign armies decide to leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
(f) The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, because of its lucrative nature, has created a “win-win” situation for all belligerents. Adversaries and enemies are at times partners in business (Maï-Maï and Rwandans and Congolese rebels), prisoners of Hutu origin are mine workers of RPA, enemies get weapons from the same dealers and use the same intermediaries. Business has superseded security concerns. The only loser in this huge business venture is the Congolese people.
Below is a list of companies cited by the U.N Report in the importation of minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo via Rwanda, amongst others:
(1) Cogem, Belgium-mineral exploited, cassiterites (2) Muka-Enterprise, Belgium-mineral exploited; cassiterites (3) Issa, Germany-mineral exploited; cassiterites (4) Chpistopa Floss, Germany-mineral exploited; cassiterites (5)Redemi, Rwanda-mineral exploited; cassiterites (6)Banro-Resources Corp., Malaysia-mineral exploited; cassiterites, coltan (7) Banro-Resources Corp., Canada-mineral exploited; cassiterites (8)Geologistics Hannover, Germany-mineral exploited; coltan (9) Rwasibo-Butera, Switzerland-mineral exploited, coltan (10) Eagleswings, Netherlands-mineral exploited; coltan (11) Veen, Netherlands-mineral exploited; coltan (12) Soger, Belgium-minjeral exploited; coltan (13) Patel Warehouse, Netherlands-mineral exploited; coltan (14) Afrimex, U.K and Northern Ireland-mineral exploited; coltan (15) Afrimex, Netherlands-mineral exploited; cassiterites (16) Chimie Pharmacie, NBelgium-mineral exploited; coltan (17) Sogem, Belgiom-mineral exploited; coltan, cassiterites, tin (18) Cogea, Belgium-mineral exploited; coltan (19) Masingiro, Germany-mineral exploited; coltan (20) Union-Transport, Germany-mineral exploited; coltan (21) Specialty Metal, Belgium-mineral exploited; coltan, etc, etc.
Dozens of multinationals including Barclays Bank, De Beers and Anglo American have also been accused of facilitating the plunder of the Democratic Republic of Congo's wealth. Eghty-five multinational companies based in Europe, the US and South Africa had violated ethical guidelines in dealing with criminal networks which have pillaged natural resources from the war-torn central African country, an independent panel of experts reported to the UN security council. Twelve of the companies are registered in Britain.
Following is a list of British-registered firms accused of violating business ethics in the Congo.
(a) Afrimex Exports: coltan, an ore essential for making most electronic goods, such as mobile phones.
(b) A. Knight International Ltd: Based in Merseyside, weighs, tests and examines metals, a process known as assaying
(c) A & M Minerals and Metals Ltd: Based in London, trades metallurgical raw materials worldwide. Ships non-ferrous scrap and residues
(d) Alex Stewart Ltd: Specialist in assaying
(e) Amalgamated Metal Corp Holding company of AMC Group: operates in 15 nations. Supplies raw materials, steel, chemicals and coltan. Total sales of £1.5bn in 1998/99
(f) Anglo American Plc: Mining and natural resources conglomerate, owned by the Oppenheimers, formed in 1998 when Anglo American Corp merged with Minorco, moving from Johannesburg to London. Beyond the precious minerals market, company interests include construction (LTA), financial services (FirstRand), explosives (AECI), wine (Vergelegen) and forestry (Mondi). Also holds a 45% share in De Beers
(g) Arctic Investment: Investment firm in Europe and Africa
(h) Barclays Bank: Active in Africa for over a century, with offices across Africa, but not in Congo. Declares mission to become Africa's leading bank. Donates millions to community projects but image tarnished by apartheid boycott in the 1980s. Lawsuit filed from former employee claiming it exploited black workers in South Africa
(i) Das Air: Airline's motto: we deliver. Operates at Gatwick, serves Africa, Middle East, US and India. Named best cargo operator 1999 by Nigerian federal airport authority. Has interline services with Air Gabon, Scibe, Monarch, and Air Yemenia
(j) Euromet: Trades in coltan in the Great Lakes region. Was named in International Peace Information Service report into coltan exports from Congo
(k) Mineral Afrika Ltd: Mines and exports natural resources from Africa to Europe
Resources:: 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, the Guardian (U.K);