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Congo President Suspends Top Officials Implicated in Natural Resource Looting - 2002-11-12

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila has suspended a number of high-ranking officials accused of taking part in the looting of the country's natural resources.

The suspension of several key Congo officials is the consequence of a United Nations report last year that accused them of crimes including theft, embezzlement, smuggling, taking kickbacks, and bribery.

The report is now being debated by the U.N. Security Council.

It names Congo's national security minister, the minister of the presidency, and the head of the national security agency among the list of officials accused of profiting from the trafficking of Congo's vast mineral resources during the country's ongoing four-year-old civil war.

Zimbabwe, which has backed the government in the conflict, was named in the report, as were Uganda and Rwanda which support the rebels.

News of President Kabila's decision to suspend the officials was broadcast late Monday in the capital, Kinshasa. It caused surprise among many Congolese because the officials were close to the president and were considered untouchable.

Officials said the Congolese leader was disturbed by what he read in the report, which detailed the looting of the country's mineral resources by virtually all parties involved in the war.

Mr. Kabila's government is preparing to begin a new round of peace talks Friday in South Africa.

The negotiations aim to create an interim coalition government until elections can be held in two years. Joseph Kabila was named President last year following the assassination of his father, the late President Laurent Kabila.

Members of the international community have praised the younger Kabila's efforts to negotiate an end to the war.

Analysts say the president's decision to suspend some his top officials based on the U.N. report is meant to bolster his position before Friday's talks.