Officials in Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi are conniving with arms dealers and gold smugglers working for rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a panel of United Nations experts charges in an unreleased report.
The report also appears to imply that some of the gold is being flown out of East Africa aboard a Kenya-based airline’s flights.
When contacted, the airline confirmed that it had been in touch with the UN experts.
The rebel groups, along with the DRC’s own military, are responsible for the deaths of millions of Congolese civilians over the past several years.
Rwanda and the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC have also been implicated due to their links to figures accused of committing atrocities.
The report also names countries and corporations outside Africa in the course of tracing a global network that helps finance the Hutu-dominated rebel FDLR (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda) militia that carries out much of the pillaging inside the DRC.
The marauding group’s origins lie in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Many of the Hutu who killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate members of their own ethnic group subsequently fled into the DRC and have since been rampaging throughout eastern Congo.
The UN Security Council has not yet approved release of the report it commissioned, in part because of reported opposition from Uganda, which holds a temporary seat on the Council.
The Wall Street Journal wrote recently that a Ugandan diplomat had told the Council the report is based on “assumptions.”
The United Nations itself is not eager for the heavily documented report to be published, the New York Times suggests.
“There is a lot in there that makes us look complicit,” an unnamed UN official told the Times.
Uganda is criticised for providing only “incomplete” information about its gold exports.
The FDLR is meanwhile able to recruit combatants in the Nyakivale and Cyaka Rwandan refugee camps in Uganda, the report adds.
However, Uganda People’s Defence Forces spokesman Col Felix Kulayigye described the charges in the report as unfounded.
“We have not been to Kivu and we don’t intend to go there. All that talk does not make any sense to us,” he told The EastAfrican.
Tanzanian officials’ motives for involvement with a Congolese arms dealer named in the report may reflect “attempts to retain Tanzanian influence over politico-economic interests in South Kivu, notably the smuggling of fuel across Lake Tanganyika to the DRC from Tanzania as well as the smuggling of mineral resources from South Kivu to Tanzania,” the report suggests.
A joint Rwanda-DRC military offensive against rebels in North Kivu earlier this year, known as Umoja Wetu, was apparently “crippled due to the embezzlement of several million US dollars in operational funds by top officers” of the Congolese and Rwandan military, the report adds.
The UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to give it its official title, was established pursuant to resolution 1857 (2008).
It consists of Raymond Debelle (Belgium), Kokouma Diallo (Guinea), Christian Dietrich (United States), Claudio Gramizzi (Italy) and Dinesh Mahtani (Britain).
Additional reporting by Mark Kapchanga in Nairobi