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Rebels in Congo receive support at home and abroad

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In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the army is leaking weapons to the very rebels that seek to topple it. It sounds like a bizzare joke. But it is an increasing problem in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a report from a group of independent experts.

Militias in the DRC, the report says, rely not only on local and regional networks, but have reached beyond those boundaries. The report's coordinator, Dinesh Mathani, says that in the case of the FDLR, the leading Hutu militia, a Diaspora leadership plays a key role in decision-making and funding:

MATHANI: We've interviewed dozens and dozens of ex-FDLR combatants who've talked about the role that they play in terms of coordinating military operations, handing down instructions, coordinating fund raising in the diaspora, Europe, North America in parts of Africa, sending that money back on the ground to support local FDLR military commanders. And these international networks have somewhat been overlooked.

COCKBURN: Revenue also comes from mineral exploitation. The report highlights how rebel groups are making millions of dollars by exporting gold to the United Arab Emirates. Mr Dinesh explains that the gold passes via companies in Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania:

MATHANI: In Burundi one guy's at the helm of the monopoly of that trade. All of his exports go to the UAE. In Uganda the companies that officially export all export to the UAE but those that we have traced aren't officialized, because they are already the directors of sanctioned entities and they are doing it, if you like, "under the radar." So we don't have documentation on those specific guys in Uganda. But we do have considerable information on them continuing to trade gold and testimony showing that their associates have set up shop in Dubai as well.

COCKBURN: Weaknesses in the Congolese army are also aiding militia survival. Mr Dinesh says that, the CNDP, although formally absorbed into the Congolese army, remains a Tutsi rebel outfit:

MATHANI: They've changed uniforms but they've retained a parallel system of chain of command, of illegal taxation, rackets that they're imposing on the ground and they're also deeply involved in the exploitation of mineral resources as well. So those are the support networks that we're talking about. And these networks need to be tackled.

COCKBURN: The report has not come without some controversy. Leaked to the press last month, many journalists described it as a damning inquiry into the work of MONUC, the UN's Congo mission. Mr Dinesh, however, criticizes these reports as completely false:

MATHANI: We do talk about the contradictions between MONUC's support to the military operations against the FDLR. But we don't make any strong conclusions. The focus of the report is the international, regional and local networks that are fuelling the crisis in Eastern Congo. That's what this report is about. It's not and internal inquiry. There are far more important things in here than conclusions drawn on MONUC which I think are actually quite dull.

Producer: Kit Cockburn, United Nations Radio
Duration: 3'07"