Wednesday 23 October 2002

The Scramble for Africa (Part Deux)

"The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don't, it will become deeper and angrier." - Tony Blair, Labour Party Conference, Tuesday October 2, 2001

Multinationals in scramble for Congo's wealth

Dozens of multinationals including Barclays Bank, De Beers and Anglo American have been accused of facilitating the plunder of the Democratic Republic of Congo's wealth in a scathing UN report published yesterday.

An independent panel of experts reported to the UN security council that 85 multinational companies based in Europe, the US and South Africa had violated ethical guidelines in dealing with criminal networks which have pillaged natural resources from the war-torn central African country.

According to the panel, a scramble for gold, diamonds, cobalt and copper by army officers, government officials and entrepreneurs from Congo and neighbouring African countries had generated billions of dollars which found its way to mining companies and financial institutions.

The panel did not detail the accusations against the 85 multinationals but said it had evidence that they violated OECD ethical guidelines, to which Britain was a signatory. The British government will be expected to take action because 12 of the companies are registered in Britain.

"Home governments have the obligation to ensure that enterprises in their jurisdiction do not abuse principles of conduct that they have adopted as a matter of law," said the 59-page report.

The panel's report accuses a Zimbabwean businessman of procuring military equipment from BAE Systems (part of the former British Aerospace) in violation of European sanctions. The report named John Bredenkamp as a key investor in the Aviation Consultancy Service Company, which represents BAE Systems. The report alleges that he offered to mediate sales of British Aerospace military equipment to Congo. The panel said he procured aircraft parts for Zimbabwe, which was propping up the Kinshasa government.

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