Note: Jaques Bahati recently visited Congo and asked that I send this.
If you use electronic devices such as a cell phone, television, iPad, any kind of music and movie player, a microwave and buy jewelry, you are likely to have indirectly financed the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that has claimed about 6 million lives and counting. Furthermore, if you travel by car or plane or your country manufactures or buys sophisticated weapons to protect you, know that it is likely that many Congolese had to die for you to enjoy that comfortable life style.The electronic devices mentioned above make our lives easy, but that has not been the experience of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo particularly those from the North and South Kivu provinces where the minerals from which some parts of these devices and jewelry are made come from. Since 1996, minerals smuggled out of Congo’s conflict zones through neighboring countries make it to smelters around the world such as Malaysia, China and Thailand where they are refined and sold to companies that manufacture electronic devices.
Consequently, when you and I buy these devices, we unknowingly take part in financial transactions that have been financing the war in the Congo for the past 16 years. Efforts to trace conflict minerals from the mine to your devices are currently being fought by many companies through aggressive lobbying against the release of tough rules that will govern the conflict mineral law, section 1502 of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Financial reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed by President Barak Obama in 2010.
The following are the names of the minerals traded by armed groups in eastern Congo: Gold, Coltan (Tantalum/Columbite-tantalite), Tin (Cassiterite), and Tungsten.
• Coltan is a black tar mineral, 80% of the word’s reserves is believed to in Congo. Once refined it is used as a heat resistant conductor of high electric charge. It’s a key component in electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers to name a few.
• Gold is one of the world’s biggest traded commodities.
• Tin/Cassiterite is mined extensively in Congo. The refined tin is used in the electroplating of objects made of steel, copper, aluminum etc. The tin is used in kitchen utensils, electronic wires, clips, pins, or just as a pure metal used in, among other things, fuse-wires, ammunitions, tinned iron sheets to protect victuals, sweets or tobacco etc.
• Tungsten is a dense metal used in many things such as light bulbs, cars, bullets and many electronics.
From 1996-2002 while troops from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi occupied Congolese the territories, they also traded Congo’s minerals to finance the war and gain profits. After they left armed groups from the three countries which are based in Congo and several Congolese armed groups and some members of the Congolese army continue the illicit conflict mineral trade. Besides this economic crime carry out by armed groups, the war has destroyed communities by, among other things, mass rape of men and women, a tragedy that has never happened anywhere on the planet.
Young women, elderly or girls as young as 8 years old have been raped by one or many men and sometimes in front of their relatives. Sometimes the armed groups rape a whole village and gang rape any women they find and force villagers to watch as they are victimized. In some cases women are shot in their private parts or forced to sit on fire. We know the stories of the survivors, but we will never know what those who were killed went through. Some women are kept in the bush as sex slaves, porters of ammunitions and cooks for the rebel groups. Men have also been raped, but their stories have yet to be told. People have been buried alive; pregnant women cut open and their babies taken out as they watch and are given to them or their husbands to kill.
In April 2011, the City of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania passed a resolution which reads “NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Pittsburgh calls on companies from all sectors in the City to factor whether electronic products contain conflict minerals in future purchasing decisions and, when available, will favor verifiably conflict-free products”.
Furthermore, California State and Maryland passed laws aiming to not sign contracts with companies that do not comply with section 1502 of Dodd-Frank. What can you do? Jessica McGinnis is one of many at Foothill School of Arts and Sciences in Idaho who sent a letter to their representatives in Congress and called the Securities and Exchange Commission stating that “Waiting to act on these rules is only prolonging the suffering of Congolese people.
As a consumer I, along with many others, am very willing to pay more for electronics and jewelry that have not been funded by rape, maiming, or murder. Please support Section 1502 and help bring prosperity and peace to the Congolese people.” You can also call your representative in Congress and ask them to urge the SEC to release strong rules and respect the intent of congress as it relates to conflict minerals law found in Dodd-Frank financial reform and Consumer protection act of 2010, section 1502. You can start a conflict free minerals from Congo campaign. Please call the SEC Chairwomen Mary L. Shapiro at 202-551-2100 or call 888-542-4146, the Raise Hope for Congo’s live line to be connected to the SEC Commissioner Troy A. Paredes. If you have question or want to get involved email to Bahati Jacques at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Ntama Bahati Jacques is the Policy Analyst for Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) since 2007. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he witnessed the invasion of the DRC by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda from 1996-2000 and worked in the field of post-war relief. Email: email@example.com