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U.N. details Congo 'mass looting'

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi have looted the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations.

The U.N. Security Council requested a report by a panel of experts that said there had been "mass-scale looting" of the eastern part of the DRC by forces from the three countries, which invaded nearly three years ago.

The 55-page report described the invasion as a "very lucrative business."

The report gives detailed accounts of racketeering, plundering of mineral resources and the direct involvement of key military and civilian leaders.


The head of the panel, Safiatou Ba-N'Daw of Senegal, said the panel lacked evidence to accuse Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame of being directly involved in the trafficking, but she said they were aware of it.

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She accused the brother of Uganda's president, former Major General Salim Saleh, and his wife of being at the core of the exploitation and of controlling "the strings of illegal activities in areas controlled by Uganda and allies."

The Rwandan ambassador to the United Nations, Joseph Mutaboba, told CNN the allegations were unfounded and said his country would respond when evidence was provided.

"Until this is proven right that we've been involved in the illegal exploitation, you cannot accuse us," he said.

"This is only allegations. It is innuendoes."

Rwanda and Uganda launched an offensive against their former ally, Congolese president Laurent-Desire Kabila in August 1998 and invaded the eastern part of the Congo in what those nations call a defensive strike against ethnic-Hutu rebel groups.

The report questions their explanation, saying economic profit was their main motivation.

"There are strong indications that, if security and political reasons were the professed roots of the political leaders' motivation to move into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, some top army officials clearly had a hidden agenda: economic and financial objectives," the report says.

The DRC has been plagued by a two-and-a-half-year war involving six foreign neighbouring nations.

Rebels backed by Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi have been fighting Congolese government forces, helped by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.

Ba-N'Daw accused every country of being involved in the exploitation at different levels.

"Almost all belligerents are benefiting in one way or another," she said.

"The only losers are the Congolese people."

The report describes international criminal cartels and complex networks for channeling extracted resources, leading to the looting of coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold and depriving civilians from benefiting from these resources.

Coltan is a mixture of columbite and tantalite, both in demand for various high-tech uses.

Among many questions, the report asks how a nation such as Uganda can export diamonds even though it does not have its own diamond production.

The report recommends sanctions against countries and individuals involved, preventive measures and reparations to the victims.

The panel will present its conclusions to the Security Council on Friday and will ask for more time to investigate the involvement of private corporations, some of them from developed countries.

The panel will also ask the 15 members of the Security Council to provide them with personal protection, fearing their lives might be in danger.

Since the beginning of the war, many peace deals have been brokered and later violated.

A precarious ceasefire has been reported on the ground since the assassination of Kabila last January. Kabila was replaced by his 27-year-olf son Joseph.

CNN's Guillaume Debre contributed to this report.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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