minerals, minerals, minerals
From Reuters, regarding the conflict minerals rider to the financial reform bill that President Obama signed into law yesterday:
Yet the impact of the legislation is far from clear and will depend partly on whether it is now followed up by complementary action from industry and Congolese authorities.The level of frustration with the advocacy community's conflict minerals narrative is palpable among people who live and work in the eastern DRC. I can't tell you how many Congolese, aid workers, and academic experts have expressed frustration about the narrative created by the Enough Project to me in these last few weeks. They don't understand why the overarching focus on minerals has come to dominate international discourse on the region while the vexing problems that actually drive the violence there - land tenure rights, citizenship rights, and the state's inability to establish a monopoly on violence - continue to fester.
"It's a high-risk gamble by the NGOs and legislators -- it may lead to a de facto embargo on formal trade if businesses decide to pull out of the region," said Nicholas Garrett, director of London-based Resource Consulting Services.
"The consequence...will be that thousands of Congolese will be jobless and might most probably (be) joining the armed groups," warned John Kanyoni, head of the Association of Mineral Exporters in Congo's eastern North Kivu province.
Such a reaction is out of the step with the government line in the capital Kinshasa, where Information Minister Lambert Mende called the bill a "noble initiative" in Congo's best interests and urged other countries to follow suit.
Yet the challenge ahead should not be under-estimated.
If you ask the Congolese what the region needs in order for the situation to improve, almost everyone says that the government needs to re-establish control, that ex-combatants need education and jobs to work at when they finish their education, that displaced persons need to be able to return home, that soldiers and civilians have to stop raping women and girls, that Rwanda has got to stop meddling in Congolese affairs and stealing Congolese minerals, and that schools, health centers, community buildings, and businesses need to be rebuilt and outfitted with necessary materials. The land situation has to be sorted out and the status of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese - both in the Kivus and those who are refugees - has to be settled once and for all.
The argument that cutting off the mineral trade will make any of this possible defies reality. As does the idea that soldiers will stop raping, looting, and burning down villages if one of their sources of revenue is cut.
Just about every local leader in the east will tell you that the mineral trade is not the cause of violence and that ending the trade is very unlikely to end most violence, especially given the absence of functioning political and security institutions. Ending violence is of course a huge priority for the Congolese, but this is the wrong way to go about it. The legislation is unlikely to do harm (until it causes some of the 1 million people who depend on the trade for their livelihood to become unemployed), so it's mostly just been a waste of time and energy. But why the advocates won't listen to the people they purport to help is beyond me.