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


show me the data

A couple of months ago, a certain grad student/atrocity humor blogger who shall remain nameless emailed with the following question: "Could you point me towards anyone who's done research on the linkage / lack thereof between the mineral trade and sexual violence?" It seems that in her graduate school endeavors, solid research requires actual evidence to support the "cell phones/minerals cause rape" thesis that's become quite popular due to efforts of various activist groups, most notably the Enough Project.

It just so happened that this particular email arrived just a few days after I gave a talk on the subject of minerals and violence in the Congo, so I had already been searching for such evidence.

Long story short: there isn't any. As far as I can tell, there has as yet been no published report that systematically demonstrates a rigorous causal relationship between the mineral trade and the epidemic of sexual violence in the eastern Congo.

But, wait, you might say. There are lots of reports claiming that the mineral trade causes sexual and other forms of violence.

This is true. I certainly do not want to argue that there's no connection whatsoever. Much of the gender-based violence in the Congo is perpetrated by armed groups that are involved in the mineral trade. We know that just about every armed group in the eastern Congo has engaged in violence, looting, and rape at one time or another, and that many (but not all) of those armed groups also benefit from the trade in minerals. There's a definite correlation between some of the violence and the fact that armed groups profit from the mineral trade. And we know beyond any doubt that armed groups terrorize populations who live near their respective mines.

But the question we need to be asking is whether the majority of gender-based and other forms of violence in the eastern DRC are actually caused by the mineral trade. As long-time readers of this blog know, I am not yet convinced that the mineral trade causes the bulk of violence in the eastern Congo, or that getting the mineral supply chains under control would end the war against Congolese women and girls.

Why don't I believe this? Because there's no data showing that the mineral trade is the primary cause of violence in the eastern Congo. It's just not there. There are anecdotal accounts and reports on the mineral supply chains and reports on the horrific conditions in the mines. There are somewhat bizarre journalistic accounts like last week's 60 Minutes piece, which misled viewers into thinking that a gold pit in the largely peaceful Ituri district is at the epicenter of the current fighting. I sometimes hear that there might be data out there, or that an activist group is about to come out with a report showing a clear causal relationship, but as of yet, as far as I've been able to tell, there's nothing that shows anything that:
  1. that violence happens more frequently or with greater intensity near the mines than it does in non-mining areas of the region,
  2. that violence happens more frequently or with greater intensity along the primary mineral supply routes,
  3. that armed groups engaged in the mineral trade proportionally commit more acts of violence than those not engaged in the mineral trade,
  4. or that those groups that control more mines or make more money from mining engage in proportionally higher levels of violence than those who control fewer mines and make less money.
This is the kind of data we would expect to find if there were a direct causal relationship between the two phenomena. If you know of any systematic arguments that show otherwise, I would love to take a look.

The sad fact is that violence happens everywhere in the Kivu provinces. Armed groups that benefit from the mineral trade buy weapons and rape women. But so do armed groups that don't benefit from the mineral trade. And a significant number of rapes are committed by civilians who see that they will have total impunity for their crimes and take advantage of the situation.

Earlier this week, @alanna_shaikh linked to this map. The creator meshed data from Ushahidi's crisis reporting system onto a map of "coltan mining areas" to make the point that there is a "conspicuous correlation" between the two variables.

While I certainly appreciate the creator's intentions to draw attention to the Congo conflict, this map is horribly misleading. First of all, there aren't coltan mines throughout North Kivu. A more useful mashup would overlap the violence incidents with the actual locations of specific mines. This matters because when you look at the Ushahidi map itself, it's clear that, while violence is high in mining areas, it's also high elsewhere. (There aren't any coltan mines, for example, between Goma and Sake. What's there? IDP camps and a road.) The eastern Congo is an incredibly violent place. Then of course, there's the problem that Ushahidi's data, while a wonderful resource, is far from complete due to the difficulties of reporting and collecting this sort of data. Sexual violence cases are still underreported in the DRC due to victims' concerns about shame and being shunned by their families and communities. We also know that there are mines - even in the Kivus - that are not militarized, despite the fact that there is gender-based violence in those areas as well.

More importantly, however, this map doesn't show us what else is in these regions. For one thing, there are large tracts of extremely fertile, hotly contested land whose status has been disputed by members of competing ethnic groups for decades. The Masisi region's volcanic soil is capable of producing up to three harvests per year, and North Kivu's varied climate is ideal for cattle ranching and dairy farming. There is money to be made in rural North Kivu. People were killing each other over the rights to this land before the wars and before mining was even a concern. Mobutu used North Kivu's land as an instrument of patronage; everyone from the Catholic Church to prominent politicians of whichever ethnic group was in his good graces at the time got a piece of land in exchange for loyalty to the regime. Under the RDC-Goma rebel government, land in Masisi and elsewhere was given to prominent Tutsis as a reward for supporting the regime and a means of securing Tutsi control of the region. When the Tutsis lost power, many also lost their land. Conflicts over land having nothing to do with minerals erupt all the time.

In other words, it's much more complicated than just the mineral trade. Which is why the argument that shutting down the mines will end all of this violence is fundamentally flawed. It is, quite frankly, based on incorrect assumptions and a lack of rigorously-analyzed evidence.

An all-encompassing focus on the mineral trade won't end violence in the eastern DRC. Assuming that it were even possible to track the Congo's minerals from source to market and that it would be possible shut down the militarized mineral trade (and, given the limits of technology and oversight, those are two mighty big assumptions), would the loss of income really force these armed groups to the negotiating table? These forces are already well-accustomed to terrorizing local populations to obtain the necessities of life. Would their behavior really change if they lost this income stream? I'm not sure. And, we must remember, there's the tiny problem of external financing of these armed groups (especially the FDLR) that the international community has until very recently completely ignored.

Then there's the lingering detail of the 1 million+ people who depend on the mineral trade for their livelihoods. Any program to shut down the mines have to take their employment into account. As Harrison Mitchell and Nicholas Garrett continue to point out, legitimizing the mineral trade is a far better idea than shutting it down.

I do not know a single scholar of the Congo who buys into the "cell phones cause rape" thesis. We all understand that the situation there is far too complex to be reduced by the activists to a simple resource war that could be solved if we just pressure Congress to stop the conflict mineral trade (How many of you are willing to give up your mobile phones to stand in solidarity with Congolese women? Keep in mind that there aren't any conflict-free cell phones.).

This doesn't mean that minerals don't matter. But the militarized mineral trade is a symptom of the disease of state failure, not the root cause of violence. Even setting aside all of the logistical issues with certification, controlling supply chains, taking physical control of the mines, developing the technology necessary to track minerals, finding livelihoods for newly unemployed miners, and creating a degree of consumer consciousness that's stronger than the desire for an iPhone, the violence won't end. It won't. There's no entity capable of stopping it.

Treating one symptom rarely cures a disease. We all want the people of the Congo to live productive, peaceful lives that are free from the constant threat of violence. We all agree that the eastern DRC is in many ways the linchpin for regional stability. But until there is serious security-sector reform, the Congolese government can actually control its territory, tax, and pay its soldiers, and the regional dynamics that drive much of the conflict over land, citizenship rights, and Rwanda's role in the region are settled, armed groups and civilians will continue to commit horrific acts of violence, simply because they can. "Doing something" about the mineral trade won't change that fact.

Policymakers would do well to focus less on oversimplified solutions to extraordinarily complex problems, and to instead turn their attention to giving the people of the DRC what they deserve and need: peace, public order, and a chance to make life better. That will require a long-term, sustained effort that doesn't pretend the peacekeepers only need to stay another six months or a year. It will require negotiating with unsavory non-state actors. It will require honest assessments of regional actors' territorial and sphere-of-influence ambitions. It will require the recognition of corruption in all its many varied forms, and of the need to directly target aid to its beneficiaries.

Above all else, it will require policies that are based on facts, not assumptions. The stakes are too high not to pursue policies that are data-driven and have a reasonable chance of success.

Then again, maybe it's easier to oversimplify things.


Blogger Rachel said...

thanks for this great analysis --

Thursday, December 10, 2009 7:18:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hey, I'm the creator of this graphic and really appreciate your thoughtful analysis. I actually was not trying show a correlation between rape and coltan mining, I was simply mashing up data.

The overlap between mining and the conflict areas in general is blatant, and even more apparent if you overlap the mining of other minerals with richer conflict data. It's up to the viewer to draw whatever conclusions he or she may.

I think it's a huge leap to use this map for the argument that 'cellphones cause rape'. That's certainly not the point I was trying to make, clearly as i highlighted the fact that Australia is the worlds leading supplier of tantalie -- dispelling the myth that most of the legal mining is occurring on DRC.

Indeed it is 'easy to oversimplify' things. :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:40:00 AM

Anonymous D. Watson said...

My understanding of the video's point was that groups who are using the minerals to fund the conflict would have to find another source of funding if gold merchants traced their records and avoided purchases that could not be traced to legitimate sources. That's still a valid point.

Thank you for the analysis.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 9:45:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Hey, Jon, thanks for commenting and I'm sorry if I misrepresented your map. It sounds like we definitely agree on what that map means. I don't think there's no overlap at all, but there are high levels of violence (even in Goma and Bukavu) in places that are far away from the mines as well. Clearly it's not only the minerals that drive fighting, and I would argue that it's not even a root cause. This post is more aimed at the activist crowd that IS making the very oversimplified argument that "cell phones cause rape" on the basis of pretty thin data.

D. Watson, fair enough. But the gold mines aren't in the active conflict areas anymore, and it's not clear that that money is being used for their direct benefit. Hoping to have a guest post on gold mining specifically sometime very soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:49:00 AM

Blogger Chris said...

Good analysis. The reason for the 'cellphones equal rape' conclusion is that cellphones are the only connection American consumers have to the DRC. Asside from anyone's interest in bringing peace to the area, it's just part of being responsible consumers to evaluate our economic interest in another country. I think the issue for many people is more about being responsible consumers rather than fixers of Africa. In that context I can sort of understand why people come to that otherwise ridiculous statement.

Perhaps I'm only adding fuel to your fire, but I think the more that you removed America's connection to the cause of violence, as you seem to be doing, the violence then means even less to most Americans. It becomes Africa's problem and not ours. This is insentive for activist not to play down the role of conflict minerals.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:50:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Chris, I know, but as I've said before, awareness-raising based on false or oversimplified arguments is almost worse than no awareness-raising at all. The reason I have such a problem with the prevailing narrative is that it's leading to policies that makes Americans feel good but won't actually do anything for the Congolese.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:06:00 PM

Blogger Erin Bernstein said...

Thank you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 1:31:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mining site in the 60 minutes episode was in South Kivu. Consider doing your own fact checking when you are fact checking others.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 3:24:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Chris and texasinafrica

I support 100% Texasinafrica's point that "awareness-raising based on false or oversimplified arguments is almost worse than no awareness-raising at all". Such behavior leads to false solutions or even harmful solutions.

Thank you, T-, for writing this analysis. Too bad you weren't part of the Enough-Resource Global debate in April.

I know the purpose of your post was not to address the various bills (S. 891Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 and H.R. 4128 Conflict Minerals Trade Act)) that are in the US Congress right now but your post certainly provides serious thoughts about any long term effectiveness such bills will have. This holds especially true when one looks at the failing Kimberly process for diamonds and at the dismal failure of arms embargoes.

Of course, if the purpose of these bills is to create jobs for Americans to staff the various verification mechanisms...well then that is something else all together....

BTW, Texas, when you wrote "a rigorous casual relationship between the mineral trade and the epidemic of sexual violence" did you mean "causal relationship'?

BTW2 I was just looking at your blog list and I notice that you have not included Congoblog.net. This is a blog that was initially created by Cedric Kalonji formerly of Radio Okapi, but has since been expanded to include the voices of several young Congolese throughout the Congo. I especially like the Caricatures, but then I have been a long-time fan of Congolese BD, so I am somewhat partial.

I look forward to reading more excellent insights.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 3:45:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Anon, a friend was a consultant on the 60 Minutes piece. He told me that he stood with the team on the rim of that particular mine in Ituri, which is why it was misleading as much of the discussion in the piece was about violence in South Kivu. Since he's an expert on gold mining in Ituri, I take his word for it.

Lorraine, thanks for the thoughts and for the heads-up on a very unfortunate typo. I'm fixing that now!

Thursday, December 10, 2009 4:06:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Anon, just fyi, the terraced mine featured prominently in the 60 Minutes piece is the Chudja mine, which is about 30 miles northwest of Bunia. My friend has a piece on all the inaccuracies in that report that should be appearing on African Arguments soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 4:14:00 PM

Anonymous t in PDX said...

What! You mean that pesky things like "facts" and "reasoned analysis" ought to get in the way of a good story for the 10pm news? Great piece, thanks!

Thursday, December 10, 2009 4:57:00 PM

Anonymous stuffisthings said...

I just saw a lot of words about things being "complicated" and "data" and stuff. Are you saying a minor change in my lifestyle/purchasing habits will NOT stop rape in the DRC? Can't you just say which consumer product or brand do I need to buy or not buy in order to end these horrible atrocities? And, like, maybe put it on a poster or an e-card or something? This is more exasperating than that time we freed Tibet! I think I need a fair trade mochaccino...

Friday, December 11, 2009 11:25:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Great post and it's an issue that has struck me time and time again across Africa on all sorts of subjects. It seems that US and European-based advocacy groups are too often busy raising awareness without actually working out whether that awareness is driving solutions in the right direction. A skewed or simplistic analysis is often the starting point for an ineffective set of interventions.

Saturday, December 12, 2009 1:00:00 AM

Anonymous Mike said...

I think you are being unfair to the gal/guy who posed this question, though heaping scorn on the "cell phones cause rape" hypothesis is spot on.

It still seems highly likely to me that artisanal (and non-artisanal) mining camps, like any other industry that draws young men far from their families, trying to make a buck - fishing camps, military camps also spring to mind - are a natural market prostitution and probably also encourage sexual exploitation, in Congo, just as anywhere else in the world.

Of course that goes nowhere towards a political statement about causes of the war here, but it seems very plausible to me that a study of mining camps anywhere, and particularly in the DRC, would show that sexual violence is a problem, and probably more so than in the general population. Particularly since (an educated guess) at least some miners are not married and doing the job hoping to save up for a dowry.

But again, the link would be concentrations of young men far from families, rather than the particular aspect of mining.

Saturday, December 12, 2009 3:10:00 AM

Blogger Luc De Wulf said...

Thanks for this orginal blog. I just read the Washington Post article this morning by Mary Lou Hartman. She advocates boycotting Kivu minerals and supporting HR 4128. Well intentioned but misguided advise in my view. As you notice there are many reasons for this unsanctioned violence against girls and women in Kivu; mining is not the major one;it gets young folks together for employment; this leads to prostitution but not to gang rape. But the rootcause (land disputes/competition, rape are weapon in war) is not mining as you so well mention in the original blog.

Saturday, December 12, 2009 10:05:00 AM

Blogger Katrin Verclas said...

Thanks, Laura, for the posts on Congo and the connection/misconnection about coltan and rape. I have written about the issue as critically as well - see http://mobileactive.org/are-there-conflict-minerals-your-mobile-phone, so I appreciate your hard-hitting piece.

I am wondering whether you would be ok with us reposting it on MobileActive.org, with all the necessary attribution and links back to you, of course. Let me know -- it is very much in keeping with the "Deconstructing (The) Mobile (Hype)" series that we have been running (see http://mobileactive.org/mobile-myths-and-reality-new-series-deconstructing-mobiles-development).

Thanks for this - truly, and do let me know if you are ok with a re-post. Thanks!



Saturday, December 12, 2009 4:30:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks for the encouragement, everyone.

Mike, oh, definitely the concentration of young men (and young armed men) causes problems and leads to violence. That would actually be a fascinating study: do we see high levels of violence around mines everywhere, or when institutions are weak, or when armed forces are present? But, as you note, the thing I'm really trying to argue is that the current advocacy narrative is leading to bad policy that doesn't make anything better because it's only attempting to address an effect of the real causes of the conflict (and the attempt seems really unlikely to succeed given the limits of technology and practicality).

Luc, thanks for the heads-up on that Washington Post piece. I submitted a letter to the editor but don't expect it will run.

Katrin, it's fine if you want to repost this with links, etc. You can definitely use my full name, which is under the "about me" link on the right. Thanks!

Saturday, December 12, 2009 7:29:00 PM

Blogger aram harrow said...

The point about mines in conflict areas is that armed forces can fund themselves without needing to tax the local population or be connected with any legitimate government. Mines also encourage outside forces to intervene. So it's not like "external" political factors such as Rwanda's involvement or the presence of heavily armed militias, just happened to fall out of the sky into this mineral-rich area.

I mean, I'm all for debunking, and I don't feel any guilt about having a cell phone, but bills like HR 4128 seem like some of the only steps towards improving the situation in DRC. Certainly peacekeepers are not going to do the job at this rate, even if they stay for another decade.

Sunday, December 13, 2009 6:21:00 PM

Anonymous Brian said...

Interesting post, I think you're spot on about the armed gangs - they are involved in the trade and can be associated with rape/killings. But so are others not involved, it's unfortunately a bigger issue than just the trade gangs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009 6:22:00 PM

Blogger aram harrow said...

Yeah, there is too much focus on militias as being somehow unique, when the various government forces act in pretty indistinguishable ways. But they're also similarly motivated by the mineral resources.

It's hard to talk about the "primary" cause of violence in places like the DRC. But certainly minerals explain a lot of the DRC's troubles ever since independence, e.g. Katanga's rebellion in 1960, U.S. support for Mobutu, etc.

Sunday, December 13, 2009 6:31:00 PM

Blogger Dustyn Winder said...

Laura, couldn't have said it better myself. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:44:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Aram, it's a mistake to say that the armed groups are "motivated" by the mineral resources. They aren't. That's not the central reason any armed groups fight. Some of the armed groups use minerals as a tool, yes. But the conflict started and continues over very different issues. Even Rwanda's initial involvement had very little to do with the mines (although they quickly looked around and realized there were benefits to be had from sticking around). Their original 1996 invasion was genuinely a response to a serious security threat. And the only reason it happened in the Kivus is that that's where the bulk of the genocidaires went. If they'd gone to Burundi or Tanzania instead, the Rwandans would've responded in that direction.

I'd also be interested to know how you account for the fact that most of these armed groups DO "tax" the populations in the areas in which they operate. CNDP is definitely running a parallel administration, and anyone who drives through North Kivu knows that the roads are controlled by soldiers seeking to "tax' passersby.

Monday, December 14, 2009 10:03:00 AM

Anonymous Sokari said...

I have read both blog posts and I agree with the Enough piece which presents a more balanced analysis that includes the international dimension and the militarisation of the DRC as a state over the past 200 years culminating in the present conflict. The country was built on rape of women, of land, of people's lives and the resources. To talk of the DRC army as any different from rebels, militias and bandits is laughable and to ignore the complicity of the West and MNC. The suggested solution that policymakers provide peace etc to the Congolese people will never happen as long as the profits for the militarised state, rebels, militias, rouge business men and multinationals treat the country like piranhas.

One solution would be a community by community approach with re-education programmes for men particularly ex-combatants and child soliders, sustainable living options for all members of a community. Trying to bring about change on a regional or national level will never work.

Monday, December 14, 2009 3:00:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really appreciated your assessment and interest in promoting evidenced-based theories of change. It sounds like you have dedicated time to gaining a deeper understanding of the root causes and factors that perpetuate violence and unrest in the Congo. And, I assume that you are concerned about the current opportunities for well-being/quality of life for those who are disempowered in the Congo. Thus I would much appreciate hearing your insight on what you feel would be the most effective interventions toward positive change. My understanding from your postings is that you promote an economic opportunities model (i.e. provision of small business loans, etc.) Do you feel that this would also be the highest impact method for addressing forced labor and sexual violence? If not, have you come across data suggesting ideas interventions that result in reduction of violence and improvement of quality of life? If so, please do share them. While I understand and agree with your advice to activists to avoid oversimplified campaigns to “help,” how do you suggest these activists change their tune to positively address serious issues of poor health and poverty. Do you suggest that "other" should not involve themselves in affairs with which they are not intimately knowledgable. If not, if you agree that global attention and efforts to address the issues causing terrorization are valuable, please provide advice on “efforts” that do have the opportunity to provide effective benefit.

Monday, December 14, 2009 3:07:00 PM

Anonymous ken harrow said...

the next to last comment i read refers to the country having been built on rape. rape in conflict in africa is recent, in congo it is recent, in e congo it is recent. the conditions of yesterday and the belgians are many generations back, and the current conflict is also a manifestation of recent conditions. to be sure there was conflict over land before; there were conflicts over cattle. mobutu more or less ceded control over the territory toward the end of his reign, and bought off the banyimulenge as part of his act of balancing ethnic groups.
things change: the attacks against the camps and mobutu in 1996 were a motivation for the initial conflict, but now, 12 years later, it is over the money generated by the minerals. the figures are all there: more than a billion dollars worth of gold flowing out of uganda, a country with no gold mines. ditto for coltan flowing out of rwanda, and gold and other minerals out of burundi. what started as an extension of the rwandan war and an unseating of mobutu has definitely become a war over control over invaluable resources.
so it is irresponsible to suggest that the minerals are not central to every aspect of violence. just as it is simplistic to think of correlating rape with geography. the trade requires control over either the mines or the routes taken in shipping them out. if the people who lie along those lanes are not under the control of the fdlr or any other militia, the attack on the population will follow, and rape is mostly a instrument of ethnic cleansing intended either to drive people away or to subdue them.
the solution has to address the two related factors that have caused this conflict to degenerate: the flow of arms into the region, an issue no longer attracting the attention it should (an embargo remains, enforcement never really worked); and the flow of mineral and other resources out that pays for the weapons.
there is no other easy solution. unfortunately, given our nation-state paradigm, that seems to mean restricting the instruments of war to the congolese army, itself a predator. but short of reforming that army, no one seems to have any other solution.
i wish this discussion would move away from debunking the measures to restrict minerals to seriously proposing what measures would best work. i am part of amnesty's country reps who are continually trying to figure out how we can effectively support actions that will turn things around. it would help if you discussed fully what might be an effective advocacy position.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 7:29:00 PM

Blogger Marco said...

TexasAfrica, I was delighted by your post. As a Congolese living in Texas I strongly believe that the war is not a resource war. The resources are used by multiple small groups to survive, get rich or support their movements. Rwanda and Uganda invaded to get rid of threats like the LRA and HUTU Interhamwe, and when they got to Congo they used the mineral trade as a mean to support their war efforts. The richest mining states in DRC is Katanga and there is no war there! In Kivu there is an underlying issue of land rights that needs to be solved and the issue of nationality of Congolese of Tutsi and Hutu descent, this issues started in the early 1990's but were brushed aside by an irresponsable central goverment in Kinshasa. In my opinion the issue is the lack of responsible leadership and the absence of a strong government in DRC that allow foreign countries and small armed groups to operate and wreck havoc in the region. As a Congolese I don't believe that the West should be writing laws to protect us..... that goes against my understanding of Independence, any help is welcome but I believe that us Congolese should take ownership of our country by DEMANDING better leadership, good governance, free and fair elections from our elected officials. Thanks for the post it was refreshing to read someone who thinks the same way as I do....must be a Texas thing!

Saturday, December 19, 2009 5:10:00 PM

Blogger Tim Worstall said...

I work in the metals trade, not directly with coltan, tungsten and tin (although I have experience of those markets)but close enough to know a bit of what I'm talking about. For example, I've dealt with the Ulba plant in Kazakhstan extensively over the years.

My reading of this is probably rather different than that of others. I see the Enough Project as simply being rent seekers.

A few points:

1) Yes, Eastern Congo is a hell hole.

2) Yes, minerals are being smuggled out of there.

However, the volumes are tiny compared to the world markets. Coltan (actually, it's columbo-tantalite) has, as above, Australia as its largest supplier. Tungsten is mostly from China although there's a mine here in Portugal. Tin is mostly from alluvial deposits in SE Asia. While there are, as I say, minerals coming onto the market from the Congo they're a small fraction of total world supply. If they didn't exist then prices wouldn't move very much.

And then we have the Enough Project insisting that there must be a verifiable chain of supppliers. That each and every phone (for example) should be able to certify that its capacitors were not made from "conflict minerals". Oh aya? So the electronics companies are going to pay for that army of bureaucrats are they?

And who is going to make up that army? Who has the experience to tell which are conflict minerals and what are not? Could it be the members of the Enough Project?

Sounds like a pretty cushy number actually: a create your own job scheme.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 2:04:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sad that so many of the comments and you Texas in Africa, enjoy twisting and tweaking realities to assuage your own guilt. Violence against women is indeed rampant because you narcissistic males choose not to take responsibility for your actions and glorify violence as 'manly'. The proof is very much there that the 'rebel' fractions get weapons paid by mining money, weapons keep them going. Trying to say that only when rapes happen around mines, or routes, is proof of connection, is really trying to divert truth and frankly just "ass"inine logic. That other countries produce the same minerals does not stop that, especially when price plays a role.There is no one claiming that trying to be responsible about how we create what we consume will be a magic wand to end all evil. It is a big step in the right direction because the way things are now IS contributing to many more destroyed lives. We consumers have have much power, we can choose to care......

Wednesday, January 06, 2010 11:16:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Wow, anon, thanks for taking the time to comment despite apparently not even bothering to look at my bio or other writings where you would have learned that: 1) I'm female, 2) I have lived and conducted extensive research in the eastern Congo and seen firsthand the effects of this crisis, and 3) I care quite deeply about ending the rape crisis in the DRC. That's precisely WHY I am so concerned about this oversimplified narrative that "minerals cause rape." It's wrong, and bad narratives lead to bad advocacy. Bad advocacy leads to bad policy, which doesn't solve the problem, which doesn't help the women and girls of the Congo.

If you know of concrete proof that there is a causal relationship between the two, I would LOVE to see it.

Thursday, January 07, 2010 9:36:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you and/or your readers have read the paper written by Mukwege and Nangini entitled "Rape with Extreme Violence: The New Pathology in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo".

It can be found at http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000204

The summary points are:

-In eastern DRC the destructive and sadistic behaviour systematically perpetrated by different armed groups over the last
ten years signals a new pathology we classify as rape with extreme violence (REV).

-REV is devastating to populations and can permanently damage women’s reproductive capacity.

-The Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu is one of the few established medical centres that has the capacity to treat REV cases.

-Current gaps in the provision of care for REV survivors include a lack of health care infrastructure, insufficient number of qualified psychotherapists, and challenges associated with socioeconomic reintegration.

-Trafficking of the DRC’s minerals directly assists the occurrence of atrocities.

So in this paper they do make a direct link between the presence of minerals and the incidences of sexual violence. Alex Engwete notes on his blog (http://alexengwete.blogspot.com/2009/10/sexual-terrorism-bureaucratic-realism.html) that

"What I find most fascinating in Mukwege and Nangini’s paper, however, is the positive correlation between areas of “mineral wealth” and “regions where REV is rampant.” And I wonder why they didn’t “unpack” on this aspect besides the statistical table they provide."

Bonana 2010 (or at least a better year worldwide than 2009)


Thursday, January 07, 2010 1:35:00 PM

Anonymous Mike said...

Hi Lorraine:

The link that you post is interesting, and Panzi does amazing work. I'm not sure that it provides evidence refuting TexasInAfrica's broadside on the cheekily-named 'minerals cause rape' argument or proves any causal relationship.

To slip into cold academics, I'm not sure about the geographic precision in the paper you cite. The five 'regions' they cite are five of the nine territories of South Kivu -- enormous areas, making up majority of the province. Perhaps they are more specific, but it isn't clear. Because even territories are so large, it is only a modest refinement on the map criticized by TexasInAfrica in the post above (which used province-level statistics.

As the paper acknowledges, there is very likely a transportation bias; these are some of the five territories closest to the hospital. The monitoring data in the 2010 Humanitarian Action Plan puts other territories, including Kalehe and Mwenga as having higher incidences of rape than Bukavu and Kabare (though of course in all areas - the rape situation is a full crisis).

It also isn't clear that this correlation, even at the loose level of the territoire holds true outside of South Kivu. Rutshuru territory has the highest incidence of rape in North Kivu, but few mines. Tshikapa, Kiri and Tembo territories elsewhere in the DRC have comparable rates of sexual violence to South Kivu, only Tshikapa has mines to my knowledge.

As I posted above, to me, a correlation between mining and rape in south kivu is probably very likely, and even globally it is probably somewhat likely, but to put on the academic hat, I wouldn't see this as proof of that hypothesis.

What is more, I am not sure that even if they did coincide or were 'linked' locally, there would be any direct causation. If minerals caused rape, it would be a very complicated causal mechanism indeed, and it would be difficult to argue that things like "rebel activity," "state breakdown," "population displacement," are not causes in themselves, but steps in one big chain from minerals to sexual violence. It seems like any one of these three elements would be as-good if not better predictors of the incidence of rape in the DRC.

Of course if the argument is that they are merely 'linked' or that they 'assist' as in "minerals assist committing atrocities," then the standard of proof is much lower, but that is also less useful for a policy solution

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 10:30:00 AM

Anonymous joe said...

when are we going to stop with ALL this back and forth and ACTUALLY come up with ways to improve their lives?
So tired of arguments for and against, lets see some action...NOW!
tell me how I can actually help...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 3:03:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Hey, Joe, thanks for stopping by. Did you see all those links over there on the sidebar labeled things like "ways to help congolese women and girls who are victims of rape?"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 7:19:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's an obvious oversimplification to say that if you stop the trade of conflict minerals, the violence will also automatically stop, and I don't think you will find very many activists who will dispute that. In my 6 years of research on this topic I have not heard one educated activist ever make that claim. However, this is one aspect that most people in North America and Europe actually do have a connection to, and therefore actually can work to change from their own homes. We cannot change the minds of the people in the DRC to stop raping; we can only change our own behaviour and connections to that violence. This is why I think there is such a push for this direction right now and I definitely don't see it as a bad thing.

There are many articles and research out there that link the extraction of resources to incidences of violence (including rape) and there are several researchers currently in the DRC who are also documenting this. Most of this research does tend to focus on incidences of violence other than rape, but these do often go hand-in-hand with incidences of rape. To "prove" direct causality of violence, as you seem to be asking, is almost an impossibility as one cannot explicitly say "this particular thing is what drove me to violence". It is surely a combination of upbringing, motivations, past experiences with violence, etc. Anecdotal evidence is probably all there will ever really be in this regard. You cannot say, just because there is a mine in this location that any violence surrounding it is caused by that mine. That doesn't prove anything. Neither does saying that because a mine doesn't exist close to where an incidence of violence occurred that there is no connection between that violence and the mining. Where did the weapons come from to perpetrate that violence? Were they bought with mining profit? The connections abound, and for you to assert that no direct connection between rape and mining in the DRC has been proven is incredibly misleading.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 3:05:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Did you read this post, anon? Because I very clearly said that the minerals are part of the puzzle. And there is no evidence that shows a direct, measurable link between minerals and rape in the Congo. I would WELCOME evidence that contradicts that claim. You should be aware that I attend several scholarly meetings each year, at which the best Congo scholars in the world talk about these issues. Not one of them thinks the thesis is correct. Not one.

My problem, as I've stated ad nauseum, is with advocates who have oversimplified the narrative on this issue. Bad facts lead to bad policy, which is exactly what we're seeing develop around Congo advocacy. It is foolish and naive to believe that American or Canadian consumer behavior or legislation will have the slightest effect on the behavior of Congolese armed groups. Any solution that relies on a material issue rather than addressing the actual causes of the conflict is doomed to fail, and very likely to cause more human suffering in the process.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:54:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did read the post and while I agree with a lot of it, I also have big problems with other parts of it. You say you have a problem with oversimplification, but yet, you too have oversimplified much of what is written here. That's what happens with mass media. It's not academia. It is simplified for a mass audience, and policy created upon simplifications is doomed to fail.

If you have very clearly stated that minerals are a part of the puzzle, how can you say there is no evidence of a link between minerals and rape? If they are part of the puzzle, they are linked. Is this link overstated in a lot of the media-- absolutely. Doesn't mean there isn't a direct link between the two and that the extraction of minerals haven't been partially responsible for the rape of countless innocents.

Did the extraction of minerals cause the rape in and of themselves? Obviously not, but they did help fuel certain incidences of the violence, where people were then raped and they have certainly helped to create a culture of war in the region which has spawned greater violence. I've heard numerous stories of this type of violence myself from survivors here and from my own research I found there tends to be a spike in violence in specific mining areas where huge profits are being made. That wouldn't automatically "prove" causality in any definitive way, especially when many of the militias and populations are not exactly static. Can the full effect ever truly be measured? How can one measure direct causality in this type of violence? The answer is, you can't. You can never "prove" causality definitively in these type of situations. It's impossible. You want a direct, measurable link? Good luck with that. The reality is, the full rape stories will never be collected, because most of the survivors won't tell you the full truth or are too afraid/embarrassed to come forward and most of them don't come forward until well after the incident(making causality all the more difficult to "prove"). You also can't say that because an incident happens near a mine that it is related to the mining activity. Or that if it happens far away from a mine it is unrelated. Where did the majority of weapons come from? Where did the money come from to buy them? The rest of the world has a part in this war, and that's they only thing we can really reasonably push to change on this end. Stop fueling the militias with money, and weapons (some of this through mining activity). It won't stop all the violence-- but it will still have an impact.

I understand and share your problems with poor policy initiatives around this issue, but I think to assert that no definitive link exists is counter-productive. Push for solutions, but don't deny atrocities or downplay western connections to this violence. While we cannot address merely the material factors, we also can't ignore them entirely.

Friday, April 16, 2010 3:47:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

When did I deny an atrocity? I was in the eastern Congo well before the western media started paying attention to the violence there, and will be working in the region long after Congo has faded as the sexy cause du jour. Horrific crimes are committed there; I have seen the results of war crimes that are so beyond the pale I don't have words to describe them. You can accuse me of being wrong about the issue, but DO NOT accuse me of denying atrocities or not caring about the victims. The reason I'm so angry about this minerals-cause-rape nonsense is that it leads to bad policy that actually makes the situation worse.

Maybe there's a disconnect in the way we think about these terms. "Link" and "cause" are very different terms to social scientists, which is what I am. I disagree that it would be impossible to find direct evidence of a connection. As you pointed out earlier, several people are trying to do so at the moment. If the mineral trade caused most of the violence, there would be a discernible pattern that researchers could trace. That the pattern doesn't exist doesn't mean the evidence is bad (although there are certainly massive data problems); it means that something else is causing the problem. That something is the underlying condition of state failure, and the international community's complete and utter failure to address the local dimensions of the conflict that pre-dated the genocide and the wars.

Friday, April 16, 2010 8:27:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not mean to imply that you are denying atrocities, so I'm sorry for that; but you do seem to be downplaying western connections here, and I don't quite understand why.

There is direct evidence of a connection between the mineral trade and violence in the country. Tons of it. Again, it's not the only reason for violence, but it is most certainly a big factor in this war. I don't understand how you can deny this and say there is no discernible pattern-- because there is. Very clearly. And there is much scholarly work that demonstrates these connections.

There is not one underlying condition of state failure. It is a combination of many, many things that are engrossed in a long and complicated history. To say otherwise is a gross oversimplification. The mineral trade is but one factor, but one that needs to be addressed none-the-less. Political manipulations, poor governance, and local dimensions all have their role as well obviously. How would you suggest the international community address these local factors?

The most reasonable thing for them to do is address the factors that they themselves have control over (such as funding the mineral trade, funding the Congolese government, etc), and ensure that MONUC is strengthened and remains in place until a semblance of peace can be found. They cannot force local changes without devastating effects. What is this "something else" that you suggest is mysteriously causing all this violence? There is no one thing causing state failure. It's multi-faceted. I also don't see the violence in the DRC as even being one war. There are small wars happening all over the place with different causes and triggers egging on each one. There is no ONE cause, and ONE solution to be had here, so I don't quite understand what you are actually suggesting in your last comment. I'm very curious about that.

Friday, April 16, 2010 5:19:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Anon, show me the evidence. Cite the scholarly works that demonstrate the connections using rigorous evidence. I've been searching for it for years, as have many other scholars - I've just been corresponding with one who's writing a book on coltan. Neither of us can figure out from where the "minerals cause rape" meme came. I would love to know what I've missed.

I don't think there's one cause or one solution for the violence, for sure, and I've never denied that minerals are a part of the equation. But they are not the main part, and an international effort that makes them such is destined to fail.

I wrote a post last year called "What to do in Congo" about the steps I believe are necessary to restore the rule of law and basic public order, which I believe are the keys to beginning to tackle the crisis. There's a link on the right-hand sidebar from the front page of the blog under "popular posts."

Saturday, April 17, 2010 9:37:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? How can you not find evidence that the extraction of natural resources has directly caused violence in the DRC? Seriously? Come on. You're joking, right?

Let's see, Amnesty International has several reports on it, as does Human Rights Watch; and there are several UN reports on this. Corp Watch, Global Witness, the Enough Project. Heck, even the Congo's minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Leonard She Okitundu has said these links obviously exist. And there's plenty more evidence where that came from. Asad Ismi, Keith Harmon Snow, David Barouski, Natalie D Ware, Kristi Essick, Roberto Garreton, Phil Clark, Mvemba Phezo Dizolele have all wrote extensively about it. Mining Watch Canada also has numerous citations, and several companies have even admitted (albeit hesitantly) to their connection (such as Anvil Mining). There are also several documentaries that have recently come out or are to come out in the near future that expose in video the connections.

I've personally interviewed numerous women who were long-term sex slaves at the hands of militias that were fueled directly by the mineral trade-- so don't tell me there is no evidence. It's abundant. I can't believe you are even making that claim. It's absolutely ludicrous.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 3:33:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Okay, but NONE of the sources you've cited have been able to establish a systematic pattern of the mineral trade "causing" the rape epidemic in the eastern DRC. The journalists and advocates you've cited (with the exception of HRW, which is always careful to put the mineral trade in the context of the broader issue) rely on anecdotes rather than systematically collected and analyzed evidence. You've only named one academic, and as far as I know, he's not published academic articles on this issue.

(The best academic work I know on the subject is coming out of research centers at the University of Antwerp and the Free University of Berlin.)

Point being, anecdotes aren't evidence of a pattern. GBV victims are raped by soldiers whose FARDC brigades are involved in the mineral trade, and by members of those which are not. About a third are raped by civilians, as the new Oxfam report notes. Furthermore, there are lots of mines in the DRC at which we don't see militarized trade, or massive human rights violations.

The heinous behavior in which all these people - mineral-rich soldiers, soldiers not involved in the mineral trade, AND civilians - is not CAUSED by the mineral trade. It's CAUSED by the absence of a legitimate authority that doesn't prey on civilians.

If you read the original post, then you already know that I don't say there's no connection whatsoever. Obviously there are many victims raped by militants who benefit from the mineral trade. I do not (and have not) claimed otherwise.

What I do dispute is the idea that the minerals cause rape, that cutting off the mineral trade will bring law and order to the eastern DRC, and that the militant groups will stop terrorizing civilians if they lose access to the minerals. In fact, I'm convinced that taking away that revenue stream will lead to them doing much more horrible things on a much wider scale. A group of men don't need an AK-47 to attack a teenage girl.

I'm not willing to engage further on this question with someone who hides behind a veil of anonymity. If you'd like to continue the discussion, you're welcome to email me. The link to my email is on the right sidebar (visible on the front page).

Saturday, April 17, 2010 9:00:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok. You are talking about rape in a country with an almost non-existent police force. Other than anecdotal information from the victims that have been raped-- what type of "evidence" can really be collected here? The only thing you can do is collect the stories from those who have experienced rape. This would be anecdotal. Please, enlighten me, because I am extremely curious as to how YOU would systematically collect and analyze "proof" in this situation.

You seem to be searching for one cause, and even cite that this violence is all caused by the absence of legitimate authority. There is NOT one cause to this violence. That would be an absurd oversimplification. Minerals alone do not cause all the violence. Lack of authority alone does not cause all the violence. They both do, as do many, many other factors combined.

If, as you say, "Obviously there are many victims raped by militants who benefit from the mineral trade", then I do not understand why you simply do not write that the mineral trade is but one of many fuels in this fire, instead of entirely cutting them out of the equation as if they don't exist. State that the connection is exaggerated-- fine. I totally agree with that assertion, but to go so far as to say there is no evidence of a link is un-real.

As I said in my first comment, you would be hard-pressed to find any educated activists on this cause who truly believe that cutting off the mineral trade will bring law and order to the DRC. I've yet to find one who spouts this.

I don't have a website or google ID which is why I choose the anonymous identity. There were only these choices.

Sunday, April 18, 2010 10:14:00 PM

Blogger CharleyS said...

Thank you -

"It's CAUSED by the absence of a legitimate authority that doesn't prey on civilians."

Monday, April 19, 2010 10:31:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is currently looking into the root causes of mass rape. They include minerals as a major part of the problem. http://www.hhi.harvard.edu/programs-and-research/gender-based-violence/democratic-republic-of-congo

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:49:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

>there is no evidence that shows a >direct, measurable link between >minerals and rape in the Congo.

I take your point that the situation is more complicated than a straight causal "minerals->rape" relationship, that many factors contribute, in particular the land and ethnic disputes and hatreds, and the general lack of political accountability and capacity.

In particular, I also take the point about the difficulty of imposing tracing-mechanisms.

However, as a professional data cruncher at one of the big agencies in Africa, I find your clamor for a "direct, measurable link" rather misleading and irrelevant.

Data in Africa is unbelievably bad, and in the DRC it is often just a bunch of largely arbitrary numbers. I mean, they don't even know whether access to water in Kinshasa is 30% or 80%. To ask for proper, statistically significant evidence for a link between mineral profits and rapes/violence, when there are most likely not even proper statistics about either of these two variables (much less all the variables you would have to control for), is setting an impossibly high bar. It is putting up pseudo-scientific criteria where common sense should prevail.

It seems fairly self-evident that mineral profits are huge in the DRC (however small a share of the world-market they may be), as is evident e.g. by the documented huge, hundreds-of-millions of dollars spike in mineral exports by Uganda and Rwanda when they were still occupying the region. To claim that this is not one of a few very critical factors feeding the violence (and yes, the rapes) seems unwarranted.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010 7:35:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a college student writing a paper on this issue and want to know if there is a specific article that proposes a solution for conflict minerals by outside governmental intervention?

Saturday, September 25, 2010 3:46:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

I am a small time campaigner for the pressure groups you say over-simplify the situation.

I think that most people aren't naive enough to believe that a Mineral 'Kimberly Process' will solve the problem 100%. But it is something that we have control over. However small the contribution is, I have found very little else that we can do to bring the conflict to an end. I thought your analysis was very good, but would have liked it if you had mentioned what you think people should do instead.

Also, I think that there are two things which prolong conflict: motivation and feasibility. While I am sure that you know more than me about the motivation behind the fighting, could you not see cutting an economic source of funding as a method of 'strangling' the conflict?

Research I have read suggests that feasibility is just as if not more significant than motivation (see Paul Collier's papers)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010 11:29:00 AM

Anonymous World of Warcraft Gold said...

Good analysis. I think the problem for many people is more about being responsible consumers and not fixing Africa. In this context, you can sort of understand why people come to the statement of another so ridiculous.
Maybe I am just adding fuel to their fire, but I think the more that took the U.S. connection to the cause of violence, as seems to be doing, violence means, then, much less to most Americans. She becomes Africa's problem and not ours. This is insensitive to activists not to downplay the role of minerals conflict.

Sunday, December 19, 2010 1:10:00 AM

Blogger Haji Sab said...

Maybe I am just adding fuel to their fire, but I think the more that took the U.S. connection to the cause of violence, as seems to be doing, violence means, then, much less to most Americans. She becomes Africa's problem and not ours. This is insensitive to activists not to downplay the role of minerals conflict.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 3:57:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Well, Show me the data, is not quite a good title. I mean, i really appreciate your objective analysis but i'm afraid, it does not lead too far. Data somewhere and sometimes, are not so obviously easy to reach. I guess you never been in Kivu.
Well,if you step into kivu, the last thing you are thinking is data. You will never get any real data there, nothing scientifical.. just a big melting pot.
But anyone there KNOWS, the the war is because of minerals & C.
You do not need data.
I did not get into any mining spot, because they are controlled by armed gruops, rwandan ugandan congolese maji maji, and it is very dangerous even to approach... but you can see at this address a documentary made by a frech jornalist on some coltan mining:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 1:14:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...


I actually lived in the Kivus and it is quite possible to collect serious data on most any subject, as I did. In fact we do need data; assumptions about what the conflict is about lead to dangerously wrong policy decisions.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 9:36:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Texasinafrica, how long did you live in Congo? I ask because you repeatedly refer to your time in the field and the fact that none of the foremost "scholars" on Congo agree with the minerals-->rape thesis.

Many intelligent, informed Congolese think minerals are, in fact, a root problem. And, I think anecdotal evidence from inhabitants trumps the "scholarly" works of people who have merely visited (I would deem living in a place for less than five years as visiting).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 12:45:00 PM

Blogger cla said...

Coming late into this discussion, but here's a systematic analysis linking natural resources to rebel group violence/restraint using data from Uganda, Mozambique and Peru. Not the DRC, of course, but the book's claims are meant to be generalizable:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 2:41:00 PM


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