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Congo Accuses Rebels of Systematically Exploiting Resources

The coordinator of a government study panel in the Democratic Republic of Congo says a recent U.N. report on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in his nation is largely correct.

Last month, a panel of U.N. experts concluded that rebel groups and foreign forces involved in the DRC conflict had removed valuable natural resources from the country. Included, according to a report, were diamonds, gold, copper and other commodities.

Rebels in the DRC have been backed by forces from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. All three nations have denied any deliberate theft of Congo's resources.

Pierre Lumbi, who heads a national expert group in the DRC, confirms the U.N. report. Speaking through an English interpreter, Mr. Lumbi told reporters those countries have not only exploited his nation's resources, they have done so systematically.

"There is a picture of a very closely inter-linked situation with the political leaders, with the heads of rebel groups in Congo, with businessmen originating in these countries or foreigners in the sub-region," he said. "There is a very close network that has been established between these people."

Mr. Lumbi says his panel estimates the DRC has lost about $10-billion worth of resources to illegal exploitation.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo does seem to be coming to an end with foreign troops withdrawing and U.N. military observers disarming rebels. However, the U.N. report says strong national institutions are needed in the DRC to ensure that, in the future, the natural resources of the country are used for the benefit of the people of the country.