Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Operating with impunity

It's quite interesting to see how well some western corporations behave when operating outside of their own countries.

The British government has been accused of failing to take action over the 18 UK companies accused of involvement in the systematic looting of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the years up to and including 2002. A new parliamentary report, which was released on February 7, said that despite the seriousness of the charges levelled against 85 Western companies, several of whom were British, only a junior official in the Department of Trade and Industry had been charged following the allegations London had been asked to investigate the charges following a report by a UN panel of experts in 2002. It said that high level political, military and business networks were pillaging gold, diamonds, timber and coltan (a metal found in mobile phones) from Congo. The amount of the looting was staggering with around $5 billion worth of assets being stolen, the report said.

The looting went specifically against the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rules, which forbid "either directly or indirectly, or through negligence" helping to prolong the conflict in the DRC by engaging in unlawful economic activities there.
But the UN Security Council, which examined the findings, left it up to individual states to conduct their own investigations. Now, nearly three years later, the UK parliament's all party group on the Congo says the British government's response to the issue has been inadequate and had made "little progress in examining and resolving the allegations."

The Observer newspaper said that the unnamed companies which have been accused say they do not understand the charges against them and have not been given an opportunity to respond. Pressure groups in the UK and some MPs are calling for an inquiry into the issue. (Source)

And, the companies are unamed, not exactly what I'd call democratic transparency....or does that criticism only apply to African governments?


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