Congo suspends accused officials

Congo President Joseph Kabila has suspended every official accused in a U.N. report on the plunder of Congo’s gold, diamond and other riches, presidential aides announced.

The suspensions come a week after the war-ravaged central African nation announced a judicial inquiry, The Associated Press reports.

“All those who hold elements of proof showing the involvement of these personalities in the looting of Congolese resources must get in touch with the state prosecutor,” Kabila aide Evariste Boshab reportedly said in a statement broadcast on state TV Nov. 11.

A U.N. report to the Security Council on Oct. 21 accused dozens of officials and others linked to the armies and governments of Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda of taking advantage of a four-year war to funnel out billions of dollars in Congo’s diamonds, gold and other mineral wealth.

The suspended officials include National Security Minister Mwenze Kongolo, the government’s key negotiator at peace talks, Katumba Mwanke, and the head of the national security agency, Didier Kazadi Nyembwe, the AP reports.

Boshab said the state prosecutor would open a judicial inquiry, the AP reports. He did not say how long the officials would be suspended.

The suspension follows Kabila’s firing last week of the head of the state diamond-mining company, Charles Okoto.

Congo was the world’s third-largest exporter of diamonds in the rough before 1998, when a six-nation war broke out on its soil over east Congo’s harboring of armed militias that threatened regional security.

The war saw Rwandan and Ugandan armies backing Congolese rebels. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sent troops on behalf of the Congo government.

A series of peace deals have led to the withdrawal this year of most of what had been tens of thousands of foreign combatants in Congo.

The U.N. report said those responsible for the plundering have made extensive postwar arrangements to keep draining Congo’s mineral wealth without compensation to public coffers.