West 'has failed to stop' Congo war profiteering from war'

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Britain and other Western countries have failed adequately to investigate the role of multinational companies in exacerbating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a report says.

Britain and other Western countries have failed adequately to investigate the role of multinational companies in exacerbating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a report says.

The document, by the Oxford-based research organisation Rights and Accountability in Development (Raid), accuses governments of failing to act against companies named by a United Nations expert panel in October 2002 as having broken international guidelines.

The guidelines, to which Britain is a signatory, cover areas such as the mining and trading of so-called "conflict diamonds", exploitation of mineral resources, arms sales and currency violations.

Governments are expected to monitor the activities of companies and deal with any complaints or grievances.

In the report the UN panel listed 29 companies and 54 individuals against whom it recommended the imposition of financial restrictions and travel bans. It also accused a further 85 companies of violating the guidelines, with the clear understanding that governments were expected to take action. The companies were accused of money laundering, illegal currency transactions, supplying arms, smuggling diamonds and buying minerals without concern for who was profiting. A year later the panel said all but 11 cases had been resolved, but did not explain why. According to Raid, almost no action has been taken on the remaining cases.

In February 2002, Tony Blair promised to clamp down on companies that fuelled resource wars in Africa and called for stricter adherence to the guidelines. But Patricia Feeney of Raid said: 'So far, most governments have been long on excuses, but short on action. '

The report calls on governments to give greater priority to the issue and to prosecute companies, both in domestic courts and in the International Criminal Court. It also calls for a permanent UN monitoring body.

The five-year long conflict in the DRC is estimated to have cost three million lives.

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