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Uganda Commission Clears Government of Plundering Accusations - 2001-11-09

In Uganda, a commission of inquiry has cleared the government of accusations made by a U.N. panel that Uganda plundered resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But some people familiar with the inquiry are raising questions about its thoroughness, saying evidence implicating Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his family has been ignored.

The United Nations, in a report issued in April, charged that Ugandan forces in Congo had illegally exploited the country's mineral wealth. The Kampala government created the commission of inquiry to investigate the U.N. charge. In an interim report released Thursday, the commission said the U.N. report was lacking in evidence.

Ben Ochan, of Uganda's New Vision newspaper, says the commission's finding came as a surprise to many of those familiar with the case. "When we spoke to various people, including lawyers, they were surprised that the report has come out the way it is," he said.

The U.N. panel, in its report, said members of President Museveni's family were involved in taking resources from the Congo, and according to Mr. Ochan, witnesses to the commission made similar accusations. "Witnesses came out and said timber was actually being brought from Congo and exported as Ugandan timber," he said. "And the family of Museveni's brother Salim Saleh and his wife Jovia were clearly named in the commission, that these people were involved in plundering it. Army officers were also named in mining minerals in Congo."

The commission of inquiry, headed by expatriate British judge David Porter, is composed of judges selected by the president. Its conclusions have been sent to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.