A U.N. panel to restrict those who illegally profit from Congo’s riches

Accusing criminal groups linked to the armies of Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Congo of plundering Congo’s riches, a U.N. panel called on the United Nations to impose financial restrictions on 29 companies and 54 individuals.

The expert panel was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Massive technical and financial assistance for the population would be required to offset the humanitarian impact of such restrictive measures,” the panel says in its report released today. The panel states that steps need to be taken against companies or individuals or the country risks encouraging a continuation, or even an increase, of exploitative and illegal activities.

The report recommends that financial restrictions be placed on 29 companies based in Belgium, Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and a travel ban and financial restrictions imposed on 54 persons, including Augustin Katumba Mwanke, Minister of Presidency in the DRC, Kibassa Maliba, a former Minister of Mines, and Mwana Nanga Mawapanga, a DRC Ambassador in Harare.

The list also includes the Speaker of Parliament in Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa Dambudzo, the DRC’s Minister of National Security, Dan Munyuza, and Dennis Numbi Kalume, the Minister of Planning and Reconstruction in the DRC.

Noting that those involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources did not have a strong incentive to alter the economic status quo, the report says, “It is necessary to find measures that address their fears of losing revenues.” Such measures could only be effective if they took place simultaneously with a political process and should monitored by a UN body that would report any violations to the Security Council, the panel said.

The report also calls for quick disbursement of aid to the DRC and other countries in the Great Lakes region involved in the conflict for reconstruction and rehabilitation programs aimed at creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, and improving conditions for local populations.