UN troops smuggled in DR Congo

July 15, 2007 - 0:0

BRAZZAVILLE (BBC) -- A United Nations inquiry has confirmed that some Pakistani peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were involved in smuggling gold.

A Pakistani contingent was accused of selling gold and guns between 2005 and 2006 to Congolese militia groups they were meant to disarm. The investigation began in early 2006 but found no evidence of gun-running. Pakistani officials have previously denied all the accusations, describing the allegations as "baseless". In May the UN said it would seek to discipline anyone who had compromised peacekeeping in DR Congo by trafficking in gold or guns. But the head of UN peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told the BBC it was now up to Pakistan to punish those concerned. "The investigation has found no evidence of gun smuggling but it has identified an individual who seems to have facilitated gold smuggling," Mr. Guehenno said. "We have shared the report with the concerned troop contributor and I'm confident they will take the required action. This issue is closed." -------------------------------------- 'Overstretched' This is the latest in a series of scandals involving UN peacekeepers. Mr. Guehenno said he thought UN peacekeeping was overstretched, with 100,000 peacekeepers in the field but a support staff of just 1,000 at headquarters. That was a factor in continuing problems with discipline, he added. The BBC's UN correspondent, Laura Trevelyan, says that although the UN can send misbehaving peacekeepers home, the countries that provide the troops are responsible for their conduct. The Pakistani battalion at the center of the claims was based in and around the mining town of Mongbwalu, in the north-east of the country, in 2005. They helped bring peace to an area that had previously seen bitter fighting between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups. But witnesses said Pakistani officers had also supplied weapons to notorious militia commanders in return for gold. As the trade developed, the officers brought in the Congolese army and then Indian traders from Kenya. The UN began a major investigation after being alerted by Human Rights Watch in late 2005. A UN official connected with the inquiry has previously told the BBC there seemed to have been a plan to bury the results, in order to avoid alienating Pakistan - the largest contributor of troops to the UN.