Congo’s resources ransacked for minerals used in high-tech devices
By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / March 15, 2010
In the heart of central Africa, an exhausted young man toils at a dangerous job: digging up bits of minerals from the earth. While he earns little for his efforts, soldiers that illegally control the mine reap the profits. The fruits of his labor are smuggled to neighboring countries, sold to multinational companies, and processed into metals that end up in cellphones, computers, and digital cameras.
That is the scenario portrayed by advocacy groups that say the illicit trade of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo is fueling violence and human rights abuses.
Many mines are controlled by armed groups that ransack the land’s resources to buy weapons, robbing the country of tax revenues, and creating a situation the United Nations Security Council describes as “the world’s leading example of the financial losses and human suffering caused by illegal trafficking in natural resources.’’
The destruction may be happening more than 6,500 miles away, but it’s closer to home than many people realize, according to the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. “Ultimately, our cellphones, laptops, and other consumer electronics have been feeding into this war,’’ said David Sullivan, a researcher with the group.
The road from rural mines to retail store shelves where such electronic devices are sold is long and twisted, and until recently most US consumers knew nothing about it.
That is slowly changing.
Several efforts are underway to shed more light on the supply chain that leads to the cellphone in your pocket and the laptop on your desk.
A Nevada company has been accused of bringing rare metals from mines in some of the most troubled areas of the world - the Congo. We talk with an official of ENOUGH - the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity - about the importation of rare minerals for use in everyday electronics. ENOUGH believes a Nevada company is buying conflict metals from the Congo via a series of companies in Hong Kong. Listen
Congo’s mineral wealth continues to play a central role in the country’s conflict dynamics. Despite the upsurge in displacement and atrocities during 2009, multinational companies continue to purchase minerals from the war zone.
The minerals in your cell phone have something to do with the violence in the Congo. David Sullivan, research associate with the Enough Project, explains the connection and how legislation moving through Congress aims to stop the trade in conflict minerals.
A growing network of activists is flexing its market muscle to help end the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the deadliest and most neglected war in the world. That country's conflict minerals continue to play a central role in financing some of the worst human rights abuses in the world, including an epidemic of sexual violence perpetrated by fighters on all sides of the war.
These same minerals -- tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold -- are essential to our cell phones, computers and other high-tech gadgets. Emerging activism in the United States and Europe is recognizing that this link between our gadgets and Congo's conflict provides an opportunity to be part of a solution.
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 6 (IPS) - The civil war in Darfur, a six-year conflict that has killed up to 300,000 Sudanese civilians thus far, is now virtually out of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s hands.
"I don’t know what more he can do," Rania Rajjij, of Amnesty International told IPS.
Ban assured reporters here that that the Darfur crisis has remained one of his top priorities from the day he took office in January 2007. But, "we really need some political will," he said, both on the part of the warring factions and also among the 192 member states, who have even failed to provide the U.N. with the 24 helicopters urgently needed for the peacekeeping force in Darfur.
The minerals underneath the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo may not have caused the atrocities that have wracked its people for far too long, but that shouldn't mean we allow them to continue to fuel flagrant crimes against humanity.
Despite billions of dollars spent on aid, peacekeeping, and elections, Congo's conflict has doggedly resisted resolution. An alphabet soup of armed groups continues to wreak havoc on Congo's civilian population - in part because profit maximising pressures for inexpensive mobile phones and laptops have driven international demand for the minerals which keep the country's militias well-funded.
Steps towards an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir provides an opportunity for the U.N. Security Council to demand real changes in Khartoum’s policies and behavior. Unfortunately, the historical record suggests that the Council will likely miss this opportunity as it has missed many others during the past five years. This report diagnoses the underlying obstacles to effective Security Council response, providing a practical guide on how activists can better engage their governments to stop—and ultimately prevent—genocide and crimes against humanity.
By John Prendergast and David Sullivan | Jul 24, 2008