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Head of UN Mission in Congo Denounces Trafficking Allegations

A BBC report released Monday accused U.N. peacekeepers operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo of trading weapons with militias in 2004 and 2005. On Wednesday, Alan Doss, head of the U.N. Mission in Congo, called the allegations irresponsible, saying they were based on the actions of a few select individuals. Uma Ramiah has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Congo mission head Alan Doss responded to a BBC report accusing U.N. peacekeepers of trading weapons for gold, ivory and drugs during an interview Tuesday with Radio Okapi, a U.N.-supported broadcaster in Congo. Wednesday, he addressed reporters in the capital Kinshasa.

Doss says the allegations are old news.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, conducted an investigation in 2007 in response to rumors of trafficking. Doss said those investigations were inconclusive.

The mission chief said independent investigations carried out by the United Nations determined that there had been two cases of misconduct by two individuals. He says they found no evidence of systematic arms trafficking or improper action.

The mission head said it was irresponsible of the international media to have made allegations without tangible proof.

The BBC reported on Monday the United Nations had ignored or suppressed evidence that some of its Pakistani and Indian troops had illegally traded arms, drugs, gold and ivory with rebel and militia groups operating in Congo.

The report maintains that evidence was suppressed and investigations halted under political pressure not to upset India and Pakistan, who have made significant contributions to U.N. operations around the world.

Doss told Radio Okapi he had never felt pressure to stop investigations or alter findings. He said people are often unwilling to accept results that differ from their expectations.

He maintained that the investigations were carried out independent of MONUC's chain of command.

Doss says it would be unfair to taint the reputations of their home countries based on the irresponsible and sometimes illegal behavior of a few individuals.

The re-emergence of these allegations would cause damage to MONUC's reputation, he said. But he admitted that with a mission so large, and in such an enormous and complex country, some cases of bad behavior are to be expected.

Wednesday, Doss said Ugandan authorities had accused MONUC peacekeepers of providing the Ugandan rebel group Allied Democratic Forces with weapons in northeast Congo near the border with Uganda. He said that while there was no evidence to prove this, an independent investigation would be launched as soon as possible.

With more than 16,000 peacekeepers and an annual budget of over $1 billion, MONUC is currently the largest U.N. operation in the world.

The peacekeeping mission is working with the Congolese government to train a newly formed army and integrate former militia and rebel groups.

Congo is recovering from what is often called "Africa's first world war." Rebel and government soldiers from all over the region met and clashed in a bloody, five-year series of battles over power and resources in Congo, destroying infrastructure and leaving the country shattered and bruised.

The conflict ended largely in 2003, though violence and instability still rule in the east of the country. Congo held its first democratic election in 2006.