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Carrying a piece of the Congo in our pockets

posted by Karen McKevitt on Fri, Mar 25, 2011
in News

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By Chloe Christman, Enough Project

Kate Vangeloff highlighted a short passage from Lynn Nottage’s Ruined in her blog post on coltan in eastern Congo, “The troublous columbite-tantalite,” which reminded me of what Mama M told me last October during my visit to the region:

We are aware now that we are victims of our minerals.

Mama M -- a human rights defender working to change perceptions and educate communities on rape in the North Kivu Province -- is not alone in this sentiment. Similar thoughts were echoed repeatedly by survivors of sexual violence, doctors and lawyers, men and women living in displacement camps, community leaders, all of whom had been touched in one way or another by the conflict that has claimed nearly six million lives in over a decade of fighting.

As Kate points out, coltan, or tantalum, abundant in eastern Congo, is central to our electronics products, together with tin and tungsten (making up what we call the 3Ts) and gold. Eastern Congo is home to the minerals that make our cell phones vibrate, laptops power on, and MP3 players function. They are also used by jewelry, aerospace, automotive, and defense industries, making them central to the technology that drives our businesses and communications infrastructure, our social engagement, and our national security.

The illicit trade in these conflict minerals is fueling today’s violence. The conflict stems from long-standing grievances, a state failing to protect its citizens, and the proliferation of multiple armed groups who thrive where rule of law is weak, but armed groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the minerals trade, and employ brutal tactics, including the widespread use of rape to control the population and destroy the social fabric of society. In fact, some of the worst attacks on communities take place near the largest mines, including a widely reported incident last summer of over 300 cases of rape within a period of just a few days in Walikale.

But where there is demand for conflict minerals, there can also be demand for minerals from eastern Congo that are not sourced from mines controlled by armed groups. And that is where we, as the end users of Congo’s conflict minerals, can actually play a role in helping end the violence. If we raise our voice to electronics companies demanding conflict-free products, they will respond by tracing, auditing, and certifying their supply chains to ensure conflict minerals do not end up in our products. This is consumer pressure worth using.

One way to voice this demand is visiting to learn the steps electronics companies have -- or have not -- taken on conflict minerals and send them a message that you as a consumer of their products demand more. Together, we can help eliminate the economic incentive to wage war in eastern Congo, and work to create a space where Congo’s resources are not fueling the deadliest conflict since World War II.


Thanks for sharing! it is good to encourage people to comment, not just reading. The only reason I writing blog rather than diary is because of the feedback.

louboutin | Mon, Apr 11, 2011

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