Published in Aktuelt (Denmark)

January 22, 2001

Posted at




Uganda Plunders Congo




Both Uganda and Rwanda use their extensive military presence in Congo to exploit that country financially, rebel leader Wamba Dia Wamba tells Aktuelt

By Gunnar Willum




KAMPALA - The armies of Uganda and Rwanda are behind extensive looting of Congo's natural resources. This is admitted by Uganda's Congolese ally, the rebel leader Wamba Dia Wamba, in an interview with Aktuelt.

'In the case of Rwanda it is a state policy. In the case of Uganda it is individuals,' says Wamba Dia Wamba, leader of one of the three rebel groups that supported by Uganda and Rwanda control major parts of Congo in the war against the government, which is in turn supported by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Wamba Dia Wamba confirms to Aktuelt that several high-ranking Ugandan officers organize looting of Congo's vast natural resources such as gold, precious stones and timber.

When there are so many soldiers in a place with so many resources, you cannot prevent them from putting their hands were the resources are,' Wamba Dia Wamba says.

We have asked to have several of these removed, which happened in some cases.'

We now try to get the Ugandan commander-in-chief removed. He doesn't understand that an alliance means consultations. He thinks, he rules a district in Uganda.'

The Congolese rebel leader thereby confirms what the governments of Uganda and Rwanda have so far rejected point-blank, and what Western donors have refused to face up to.

That is, the armies of Uganda and Rwanda use their extensive military involvement in Congo's civil war to exploit that country financially.

The considerable Western aid to the governments of Rwanda and Uganda has led to accusations of indirect support for the warfare in the Congo. But Denmark, which is one of Uganda's biggest donors, has like most other Western countries so far refused cutting down aid to Uganda.

'One of the reasons for the war is the control of resources, especially exclusive control of the diamond market,' adds Wamba Dia Wamba. According to him, this is one of the main reasons why the three rebel movements fight each other from time to time like last summer, when several hundred civilians were killed during fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan troops in the strategic diamond city Kisangani.

The complete ruthlessness towards the civilian population made the UN Security Council threaten Rwanda and Uganda with sanctions, in case they did not withdraw from the city.

The comprehensive military support for the rebel movements in Congo is officially justified by the need to combat rebel movements operating from Congolese territory.

But observers say the extensive foreign involvement of both Rwanda and Uganda on the rebel side, and Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia on the government side, is also motivated by the desire to control Congo's natural riches.

Many fear that Congo is about to be divided into a number of foreign interest spheres, where the law of the jungle will literally prevail.

As hitherto, the population of Congo will be victimized. It is already among the most impoverished in the world after 32 years of plunder by the dictator Mobutu, followed by three years of civil war.

'Mobutu has been removed, but Mobutu's politics, Mobutism, with plunder, corruption and dirty tricks and murder of political opponents continue, also in the rebel movement,' Wamba Dia Wamba says.

But Uganda's warfare in the Congo has not only meant economic disaster. Uganda's unambiguous support for one particular side in a land dispute in eastern Congo has intensified a conflict that has cost the lives of thousands of human beings and put tens of thousands on the run.

The Ugandan soldiers have one-sidedly armed and defended the ethnic minority and superior class Hemas in order to try capturing land from the poor ethnic majority, the Lendus.

The Ugandan army's support for what Wamba Dia Wamba calls 'systematic inequality' has produced a spiral of violence, where the Lendus in order to try to defend their country have committed massacres on the Hemas.

The Lendus have in turn been met by even more brutal retaliatory measures by the Ugandan army. Instead of trying to mediate in the conflict and solve the economic inequalities at the root of the conflict, the Ugandan army has, according to Wamba, decided to reply by using even harsher reprisals, among others arbitrary bombardments of large crowds of civilians with gunships and tanks.

After having brought Laurent Desiré Kabila to power following an insurgency against Mobutu in 1997, Uganda and Rwanda in 1998 lead another uprising against their former ally Kabila, whom they thought did not do enough to protect their borders against rebels.



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