Coltan Killing the Congolese

(8:30PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

 I happened to catch a segment on PBS briefly discussing the Congolese conflict. Unfortunately if one is interested in international news, the MSM does a shoddy job of keeping Americans even vaguely informed. My own suspicion is that Americans tend not to want to be informed about the rest of the universe. We can debate that one since my opinion is simply that.

One dominant explanation for the root causes of the ongoing conflict is that its foundation is connected to the genocide in Rwanda.

An article here details that background.

Another dominant explanation is the availability of minerals that the outside world desires.

A piece from an Australian service here takes the viewpoint of Global Witness to lay out a few assertations…..

“The economic benefits of fighting a war in this region remain one of the central motives of the warring parties.”

Coltan, or colombo-tantalize ore, is used to make pinhead capacitators that are essential parts in cell phones and other consumer electronics.

One-third of the world’s estimated coltan reserves are in Congo.

Global Witness said: “Almost all the main armed groups involved in the conflict, as well as soldiers of the national Congolese army, have been trading illegally in these minerals for years, with complete impunity.”

Global Witness believes the competition for minerals and control of continues the cycle of violence.

A McClatchy article gives an overview  here citing both the roots of the Rwandan conflict and the presence of minerals.

Johann Hari in his opinion piece is both brutal and frank in his assessment of the causes of carnage in the Congo. He opens his blistering piece pointing his finger….

The deadliest war since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe is starting again – and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million dead, the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a “tribal conflict” in “the Heart of Darkness”. It isn’t. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by “armies of business” to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you.

He cites Coltan among many other minerals factions are fighting for….

These resources were not being stolen to for use in Africa. They were seized so they could be sold on to us. The more we bought, the more the invaders stole – and slaughtered. The rise of mobile phones caused a surge in deaths, because the coltan they contain is found primarily in Congo. The UN named the international corporations it believed were involved: Anglo-America, Standard Chartered Bank, De Beers and more than 100 others. (They all deny the charges.) But instead of stopping these corporations, our governments demanded that the UN stop criticizing them.

UN peacekeepers are seen as being ill prepared and ineffective in their role.

However as this article notes the UN troops are thinly stretched over an area the size of western Europe.

There are also new reports of cholera breaking out in refugee camps.

Ultimately for those in the west, it is much easier to view conflicts, pain, and poverty  in Africa through the lens of state instability and tribal rage. It exempts us from any responsibility, it impales our motivation to offer assistance. It also reinforces a sense of western superiority: after all we have not descended into tribal/ethic conflict.

I can’t help but wonder if resources become scarce in the western world if we might not mirror other regions.

Many of us are focused inward at the moment struggling against apparently insurmountable economic forces.

Suddenly I realize that the simple act of using my cell phone might be connected to pain and suffering far away.

Simple actions have a ripple effect. Humbling. Frightening. Unnerving


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  1. this issue is that I am aware that Africa is a continent.

  2. … jumped out at me … their diamonds are also soaked in blood.

    Thank you so much for this essay, UCC.  I had seen the headlines about what was going on in the Congo but did not understand their significance.

    couldn’t agree more with this:

    It exempts us from any responsibility, it impales our motivation to offer assistance. It also reinforces a sense of western superiority: after all we have not descended into tribal/ethic conflict.  

    Even when we are intimately connected with causing human death and suffering, as in Iraq, that attitude still reigns.

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