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Conflict Minerals Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo

Title Conflict   Minerals Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo
Director(s) Suroosh Alvi
Date released (year) 2011
Production company Vice
Length 38mins
Location Congo
Keywords/tags Minerals, mining, civil war,   violence
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYqrflGpTRE
Synopsis The Democratic   Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world and thanks to   an insanely complicated mix of politics, armed conflict, and corruption… it’s   also one of the most under-reported. It also happens to be home to a   nondescript black rock known as Coltan… a vital ingredient in the production   of nearly every cell phone and computer on the planet. Without Coltan, our   technology-driven lives would come to a screeching halt, and Congo has 80% of   the world’s supply. Since the mid nineteen-nineties, armed groups have used   these minerals to fund a series of fantastically complicated and horrifically   violent wars.

Vice founder Suroosh   Alvi travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo and makes one of the most   grueling treks of his life to see first-hand where this so-called “conflict   mineral” comes from and to meet some of the rebels involved in the seemingly   never-ending conflict in Eastern Congo.

Source: http://www.vice.com/en_za/vice-news/the-vice-guide-to-congo-1?Article_page=8

Reviews/discussion From the BBC: The Human Cost of Coltan Mining

By Karen Allen
BBC News, South Kivu

It   was midnight when Elise and her husband were woken by armed men in the   Democratic Republic of Congo. Soldiers of DR Congo’s National Army burst into their shack, sent the   husband into another room, and then raped the mother of five at gunpoint.

“They put their guns on my   chest and said: ‘Don’t talk, don’t cry, don’t complain’… then they started to   rape me,” she said.

The perpetrators were not the   feared militia of the FDLR, who are currently the focus of a major military   operation in South Kivu.

They were from the FARDC – the   National Army that now controls this area in eastern DR Congo.

It is an area carpeted with   minerals such as coltan and cassiterite, which are used in the production of   consumer durables and gadgets sold in the rich world.

But people are now beginning to   ask: what is the human cost of a mobile phone?

Scarred for life

In Shabunda territory, where   Elise was attacked, there have been 112 rapes reported since April, when the   military operation started.

These official figures are   almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg, because most sexual crimes go   unreported here.

Since 2006 there have been   2,883 recorded rapes in the Shabunda territory.

Many of the women have not only   been sexually violated but physically scarred for life.

And Shabunda is just one   territory out of eight in the province of South Kivu – a tiny pin-prick in   this vast country.

“Sexual attacks peak when   there’s fighting,” said Shabunda-based human rights activist Papy   Bwalinga Kashama.

“The reason the military   and militia are fighting is to control the mines,” he said.

Civilians get caught in the middle.   Control the men with guns who guard and earn tax from the mines, he argued,   and you reduce the terrible violations endured by women.

It may sound simplistic, but he   has a point.

Predatory militias

In the mining area of Nyabembe,   rusting pieces of mining machinery poke out from a thick layer of grass.

They reflect a time in the   mid-1970s, when commercial mining was carried out in this area – a   two-and-a-half hour motorbike ride from the town of Lulingu.

Five years of civil war,   followed by protracted skirmishes with the militia, saw those operations move   out and freelance miners move in.

These men are now exposed to   predatory militias and also the military who demand a cut from what they dig.

When they are not exacting   local taxes, the gunmen move into the village and terrify the local   population – stealing, killing and raping.

“They take what they want,   even our women, and there is nothing we can do about it,” sighed Simon,   a young teacher who has swapped his school books for a shovel, because it is   the only way to make a living.

Blood on their hands?

Global electronics and metals   giants now face uncomfortable questions: Are they inadvertently fuelling the   conflict in eastern DR Congo? Are they buttressing a market by sourcing   supplies from militarised zones (a practice that is not illegal but ethically   questionable)?

“There is nowhere and   no-one we won’t buy from,” said Masumbuko Moari, who represents   middlemen who supply to the big exporters.

He laughed when I suggested   they might have blood on their hands as a result of buying from the men with   guns.

“That’s a political   issue,” he said, and our conversation ended.

With mining being the only game   in town, radical change is bound to be resisted.

And that is the argument that   international purchasers of minerals use, to justify their trade: so many   jobs depend on it.

‘Abnormal situation’

During a recent visit to South   Kivu, DR Congo’s Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito admitted to the BBC that there   was a genuine problem about militarised mining.

“We want people and   companies to be able to work in good conditions,” he said. “Once   the environment improves, the army won’t be in a position to exploit the   mines.

“It’s an abnormal   situation at the moment because the government doesn’t have full control.”

The Congolese government faces   international pressure to address military exploitation of DR Congo’s mines.

It claims to control 80% of the   mines but if you are prepared to ride by motorbike for a few hours, or trek   through the forests on foot, it is not hard to find mines in the hands of men   with guns.

Under the wire

During US Secretary of State   Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to the country, grand statements were made to   get the military out of the mines, but change requires clear political will.

“We have to destroy the   commercial circus of the mines, by reasserting the control of the   state,” said Mabolia Yenga, a mines trouble-shooter who advises DR   Congo’s ministry of mines.

Commercialising the mining   sector is not a magic bullet, but it might be a start if the big operators   are closely watched.

Mr Yenga believes that for   minerals like coltan and cassiterite, a process of certification to ensure   the mining does not fund violence – such as with the Kimberley process for   diamonds – is long overdue.

But such a process would   require input from DR Congo’s neighbours, which act as transit points for   illicit exports.

Neighbours such as Burundi,   Rwanda and Uganda have long been accused of benefiting from DR Congo’s mines,   operating “under the wire” and gaining from the country’s   instability.

The Congolese government wants   to invite mining companies back in and use the tax revenues from mining to   rebuild this shattered country.

It is a hard message to sell to   a population which has seen virtually no infrastructural growth from its   mineral riches – simply war.

But it may be a small step to   making mining more transparent in DR Congo. It may also help to ensure that   some of the 1.8bn mobile phones in the world are a little   “cleaner”.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8234583.stm

An excellent book on this topic:

Michael Nest, 2011, Coltan. Wiley   Press. http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745649313

Description

A decade ago no one except geologists had heard of tantalum or   ‘coltan’ – an obscure mineral that is an essential ingredient in mobile   phones and laptops. Then, in 2000, reports began to leak out of Congo: of   mines deep in the jungle where coltan was extracted in brutal conditions   watched over by warlords. The United Nations sent a team to investigate, and   its exposé of the relationship between violence and the exploitation of   coltan and other natural resources contributed to a re-examination of   scholarship on the motivations and strategies of armed groups.

The   politics of coltan encompass rebel militias, transnational corporations,   determined activists, Hollywood celebrities, the rise of China, and the   latest iGadget. Drawing on Congolese and activist voices, Nest analyses the   two issues that define coltan politics: the relationship between coltan and   violence in the Congo, and contestation between activists and corporations to   reshape the global tantalum supply chain. The way production and trade of   coltan is organised creates opportunities for armed groups, but the Congo   wars are not solely, or even primarily, about coltan or minerals generally.   Nest argues the political significance of coltan lies not in its causal link   to violence, but in activists’ skillful use of mobile phones as a symbol of   how ordinary people and transnational corporations far from Africa are   implicated in Congo’s coltan industry and therefore its conflict. Nest   examines the challenges coltan initiatives face in an activist ‘marketplace’   crowded with competing justice issues, and identifies lessons from coltan   initiatives for the geopolitics of global resources more generally.

Source:   http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745649313

Links to other resources Dena Montague (2002) Stolen Goods: Coltan   and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. SAIS Review   22.1 (2002) 103-118 [Access article in PDF]
Click here to help: http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/Watch more VICE documentaries here: http://bit.ly/VICE-Presents

See Blood Coltan:https://ejoltdocumentaries.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/blood-coltan/

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