"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

12.11.2009

continuing with the theme

Dan Fahey, a Ph.D. candidate at Berkeley whose research is about what's happened in Ituri since 2003 and the gold mining trade there, has a nice piece up over at African Arguments criticizing a piece on Congolese gold that 60 Minutes ran last week. It should be noted that Fahey was a consultant on the piece. Here are the key points, emphasis mine:
...This large, terraced pit mine is in fact the Chudja mine, located approximately thirty miles northwest of Bunia, the capital of the Ituri District. There was a bloody war in Ituri from 1999 until 2007, but the good news is that large parts of Ituri—including the rich gold fields in the Chudja area—are at peace. ...Yet 60 Minutes repeatedly shows Chudja when talking about ongoing conflict in Congo, thus creating a false impression about the extent of the connection between gold and current war...

...the problem is the statements made by John Prendergast, Enough’s director. In the segment, Prendergast states: “If you do a conflict analysis you will find that when there are spikes in violence, it has something to do with contestation over the mineral resources, gold and the rest of them.” Prendergast goes on to say that conflict will continue “until we break that cycle and address the root issue here, which is the gold and the other conflict minerals.” Academics and policymakers who have taken more than a passing glance at the Congo wars will scoff at Prendergast’s deeply flawed and simplistic “conflict analysis”, but Prendergast is not talking to people who know something—he’s talking to those who know very little or nothing, who are the target audience of Enough’s self-appointed campaign to “save Congo”. Enough is guilty of vastly understating the role of history, ethnicity, local and regional politics, and other factors in causing and sustaining war in Congo, or more accurately, war in the Kivus, since most of Congo is now in a state of quasi-peace. Prendergast should know better, and likely he does know better, but he has created a campaign that vastly oversimplifies the conflict in the Congo and ignores the fact that most gold produced in Congo is from areas at peace—not at war...

...The third problem is the suggestion that gold can or should be cut off from Congo. ...First, the wars in the Kivus are not simply about competition over gold, so cutting off Congo’s gold is not a practical solution for ending the wars. 60 Minutes and Enough have created the impression that wherever there is gold, there is conflict (and rape), but this is simply not true. Second, cutting off the gold supply from Congo would mean putting approximately 100,000 artisanal miners out of work in the gold mines around Chudja alone, plus untold tens of thousands in other parts of Congo that are not experiencing conflict. Cutting off Congo’s gold would be a social and economic disaster for areas like Ituri that are struggling to emerge from war. Third, cutting off Congo’s gold is completely impractical. Nearly all of Congo’s gold is smuggled out of the country, and short of heavily militarizing Congo’s entire border and strip-searching everyone at the airports, this suggestion is not viable....
Read the full post here.