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


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.

"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.
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.

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.


Blogger Aldwin said...

I remember reading an opinion piece by Raf Custers a little while back, which highlighted how mining industry lobbyists were pushing this kind of legislation as a means to protect themselves against 'unfair' competition from African producers.

He highlighted, by way of example, how the active promoting of the Enough Campaign by lobbyists Cansource Marketing for Commerce Resources (Canada) was linked to the potential exploitation of tantalum deposits in Canada (which have a higher exploitation cost).

Congolese voices may have been more difficult to hear because of the seasoned, professional lobbyists spreading Enough’s message in Washington.

(article in Dutch –I don’t know whether a translation is available- at http://www.dewereldmorgen.be/artikels/2010/05/11/coltanspeculanten-boren-congo-de-grond)

Thursday, July 22, 2010 3:24:00 AM

Blogger friends of congo said...

The first rule of advocacy is to listen to the party on whose behalf you are advocating. The second rule is to do no harm. However, it does not really appear to be mainly about the Congolese people.

Being at the ground level and seeing how this campaign developed from the initial meetings with the electronics industry even before ENOUGH got involved, it was clear what their policy interests were, which we believe lie in three areas:
1. Protect US strategic interests in the region -- it is for this reason they have been silent on Rwanda's destructive role in the Congo
2. Deflect attention away from US mining interests in the Congo
3. Protect Bill Clinton’s legacy

Any historical look at the current Great Lakes crisis would bring the Clinton administration's policies in the region during the 1990s into focus, starting from when Bill Richardson visited Mobutu and told him he had to go (see L’Afrique en Moreceaux by Jihan El Tahri). Remember when Madeleine Albright and her protégé Susan Rice declared that the new breed of leaders of Africa were best represented by Museveni and Kagame among others, both of whom invaded Congo TWICE with the backing of the Clinton Administration and have the blood of millions of Congolese on their hands? Timothy Reid of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Howard French have done some of the best writing on this matter: http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/news/classic-congo-news.html

So when a project like ENOUGH is founded by two Clinton Administration National Security Council officials (John Prendergast and Gayle Smith - she is now on the Obama NSC) who were intimately involved in the policy decisions of the Clinton Africa policy team of the 1990s, the policies that they would produce and embrace today are nearly predictable. You combine the level of access that former and current NSC officials have to the media a la Nick Kristof and the NY Times, Congress and the State Department headed up by the former First Lady and buttress such access with an institution (Center for American Progress) with at least a $25 million annual budget, then the capacity to weave a narrative devoid of political and historical context while being diametrically opposed to what the Congolese people have articulated becomes a lot clearer and understandable.

One must not overstate the conflict minerals narrative because in the final analysis, lasting and enduring change is going to come from the Congolese people. Therefore, the degree to which people of goodwill work in partnership with the Congolese people to strengthen their institutions will help to accelerate the march towards, peace, stability and human dignity for the sons and daughters of the Congo.

Thursday, July 22, 2010 7:58:00 AM

Blogger Derrill Watson said...

Thank you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010 11:23:00 AM

Blogger Sasha said...

These are all very interesting and relevant points but it seems a bit reckless to discount the role of the mineral trade here. Of course stopping the violence and rape while improving governance and security etc. are the ultimate goals, but how can they be achieved if the source of funding for militia groups is not interrupted. I don't think strangling the economy is the goal, but rather to regulate it so income can go to schools and clinics rather than guns.

The effects of an enclave economy, extractive resource trade, or resource curse, are incredibly well developed and supported. An economy that is heavily reliant on one or a few natural resources that can be controlled by different parties, has devastating effects when paired with corrupt or weak governance.

The 2005 peace agreement in Sudan that ended its decades-long civil war could not have been reached without the 2003 agreement on oil sharing. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola would not be where they are today without the Kimberly Process that complemented peace processes in each region, helping to end wars in each. How can we address the violence in the DRC if the extractive resources are not addressed? Peace processes are often ineffective until both parties feel they have something to gain. Right now the ability to control mineral wealth and thereby hold power, out-ways the benefits that would be given by any peace process- that might lead to war tribunals etc.

I agree that Rwanda and Uganda are playing roles and are not gaining enough attention for them.

I'm genuinely interested in this conversation, thanks for posting.

Friday, July 23, 2010 8:22:00 AM

Blogger friends of congo said...

Ref @sasha

Your final statement regarding Rwanda and Uganda is probably the most telling of your apparent lack of understanding of the region,
unfamiliarity with the literature and what is evidently lack of connection to the people of the region and their well known demands and aspirations.

Rene LeMarchand gets immediately to the crux of the matter in the Fall/Winter issue of the Brown Journal of World Affairs where he sees "Rwanda as the central actor in any attempt to bring about peace (or war) to the region." Juxtapose LeMarchand's resolute declaration to your statement about Rwanda and Uganda "not gaining enough attention."

The misguided nature of the conflict minerals advocates is underscored by the fact that not a single Congolese or African scholar has put his/her reputation on the line to support the conflict minerals contentions. In fact some scholars have been outright dismissive of the conflict minerals claims:
Alex DeWall here: http://africanarguments.org/2009/12/three-problems-with-60-minutes/

Adam Hochschild: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/02/blood-diamonds-myth

Nzongola Ntalaja, Rene LeMarchand, Dr Herbert Weiss and so many others are extremely critical of what is basically a high octane marketing campaign that has little to do with the core issues and challenges facing the Congo.

Regarding the Kimberley Process, there is absolutely NO evidence that it played any significant role whatsoever in bringing an end to the conflicts in either West Africa or Angola. Nigeria in particular and ECOMOG in general would be shocked to hear that such claims are being made. Angola was a cold war proxy war with the US firmly behind the rebel group UNITA headed by Jonas Savimbi. His death in 2002 combined with the already in process peace talks helped to accelerate the end of the Angolan conflict. You should provide the readers of this board the evidence on which you base your assertions that the Kimberley process played any significant role in the stabilization of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola.

The Congolese people have clearly articulated the ways in which they believe the global community can best help:

The fact of the matter is that both the US and England have prioritized their strategic and corporate interests to the detriment of the interests of the people in the region (in spite of the millions dead) which has contributed to the ongoing conflict. The conflict minerals marketing campaign is an extension of this policy and ultimately a way to divert activists from calling for policies with teeth that can truly contribute to peace such as the enforcement of PL 109-456, especially Section 105. http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/resource-center/policy-a-issue-briefs.html

Friday, July 23, 2010 2:11:00 PM

Blogger Elizabeth Allen said...

@friends of congo:

Pace, FOC: last time I checked, neither de Waal nor Hochschild were "Congolese scholars." And to be quite frank, I'm not convinced that they should even be considered "experts." (As for Nzongola -- the one Congolese scholar you do cite -- I'd love to see his specific writings on this subject.) That said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with what Sasha wrote above. Pursued in a vacuum, mineral reform will not create security or peace in Congo. But the economics of the east do contribute to its current quandary, and do attract other countries to its territory. There's nothing politically naive about acknowledging this.

Rwanda is only able to do what it's doing in the east because of the complete dysfunction that exists in Kinshasa -- due to Kabila's incompetence and the propping up of his regime by international donors. It should go without saying, but Kigali has its counterpoints in Kinshasa, and many scholars of the Great Lakes don't keep abreast of day-to-day events in Kin. There are many players in the collapse of eastern Congo. Don't oversimplify your case.

You should study the history of conflicts like the Angolan civil war before you begin lecturing others. Angola wasn't just a Cold War proxy conflict (just as eastern Congo isn't *only* a proxy site for Rwanda's lingering civil wars). But since we're talking about international involvement in protracted conflicts, it's worth remembering that Angola reignited after the Cold War ended and was sustained by elaborate French and Eastern European laundering networks that funneled three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of munitions to dos Santos in exchange for what amounted to 20,000 barrels of oil per day for four years. That phase of the war would not have lasted as long as it did had it not been for those networks. Had the French not covertly intervened with their munitions-for-oil scheme, Savimbi would have had control of the Angolan state by '93. Was oil the "root cause" of the conflict? Of course not. Did it escalate the conflict and prolong it for years? Absolutely. And don't fool yourself: if Unita had had a French counterpoint, the group may well have survived Savimbi's assassination -- in which the mayhem would have continued.

(continued below)

Saturday, July 24, 2010 1:14:00 AM

Blogger Elizabeth Allen said...

(continued from above)

Only a fanatic would claim that the 1996 invasion of Congo by Rwanda was illegitimate, given the proliferation of cross-border attacks that were occurring after the genocide. (Don't let your rage with the current Rwandan regime turn you into an apologist for Hutu fanatics and genocidaires.) Mobutu had lost control of much of the state by the mid-90s, but Zaire's involvement in the Rwandese civil war that began in 1990 should be well known to a Congo expert like yourself. Not all of Mobutu's forces were as dilapidated as the likes of Michaela Wrong would have us believe. Mobutu periodically sent special forces to help Habyarimana, his close ally (and friend), push back the RDF in the 90s, and later allowed Rwandan government forces to regroup in Zairian territory during and after the 94 genocide. The point is that the 96 RPF invasion has a history and a context. If Rwanda is not innocent, Congo is not pure.

Who are you, anyway? Who are you to habitually speak in sweeping terms about the aspirations of "the Congolese people" as if you're some kind of e-representative for a diverse array of 70 million people (or as if your "Congolese voices" papers begin to tap into the multiplicity of political opinions that exist in that country)? Yeah, I know you're "friends of congo" and I'm sure that some of your best friends are Congolese. But I don't even purport to speak in generalities about my OWN countrymen, let alone people living in other states. And given the way you talk about Congo, you're clearly not Congolese.

The high tone of moral censure in which you tend to write your comments is off-putting in the extreme. It may work when preaching to the choir, but when talking to others, try a different tact. There are plenty of ways to communicate your ideas -- and your passion -- without the asinine condescension that you showed people like Sasha.

Saturday, July 24, 2010 1:33:00 AM

Blogger friends of congo said...

@ Elizabeth

1. You never addressed the central issue here, which is the veracity of the "blood diamonds" and "conflict minerals" proposition. Regarding Dr. Nzongola, we highly recommend that people interested in the Congo read is wonderful work "The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila." You are right neither Dr Nzongola nor other Congolese scholars are spending much of their time writing on or debating “conflict minerals.” They simply dismiss it. Don’t forget “conflict minerals” is yet another Western imposition on African people’s cooked up in Washington. As Professor Seay corroborated, “conflict minerals” is not an organic Congolese policy request or prescription. One Congolese research institute (Pole) did provide a critique of the whole conflict minerals idea: http://conflictminerals.org/2010/05/11/conflict-minerals-critique-by-congolese-research-institute/

2. Not sure what you are trying to say in point 2. It sounds like you are saying because the government in Kin is incompetent and dysfunctional it gives Rwanda the right to invade, destabilize and loot the Congo. For you to say there are many players in the collapse of the east is tautological, therefore it does not warrant a response.

3. Remember the central argument of Sasha is that the "blood diamonds" campaign played a role in bringing an end to the Angolan conflict. We see nothing in your statements that support Sashsa's position. You talk about everything else but "blood diamonds" in Angola. When you provide data or evidence to support Sasha's argument, we will respond accordingly.

4. Only a "fanatic" would claim that the 1996 invasion of Congo by Rwanda was illegitimate you say. The 1996 & 1998 invasions were not only illegitimate and illegally but deadly. So was the armed conflict over minerals between Rwanda and Uganda on Congolese soil in Kisangani in 1999. One simply has to consult the 2005 ICJ ruling, the Spanish and French Court arrest warrants for 40 top Rwandan officials and the 1997 UN Garreton report.

Are we to understand that you are saying the genocide in Rwanda justifies over six million dead in Congo? This does seem to be the logical extension of your reasoning. Yes, the 1996 RPF invasion has a history and a context and 6 million dead people later your argument is "Congo is not pure?" Is this really what you meant to say?

Saturday, July 24, 2010 1:37:00 PM

Blogger friends of congo said...

@ Elizabeth

5. You are just grinding an axe here. So there is not much to respond to other than point readers to who we are – the majority of whom are Congolese, particularly young Congolese (http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/our-story/leadership.html) and the cross section of Congolese (http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/congolese-voices-203.html who are speaking from the Friends of Congo platform. Oh almost forgot, regarding keeping abreast of “day-to-day” in Kin, plz visit our home page feature to see the latest by Mvemba Dizolele, it is not on conflict minerals as a solution for the Congo so be forewarned: http://friendsofthecongo.org. We cannot forget our sister Marie Claire Faray: http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/resource-center/womens-voices.html. There are so many others. Might it be that the problem you have with who we are is because Congolese voices are finally getting a hearing and these voices are in direct contradistinction to Sasha's marketing campaign? Patrice Lumumba's prophetic words are taking life among a new generation of Congolese: "History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity."

6. We by no means aim to offend anyone, what has taken place in the Congo since 1885 and especially since 1996 is offensive enough and the prescriptions being imposed from the West such as conflict minerals is even more offensive. We must quickly add however, when Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Dr. King and so many others spoke, it was off-putting to those defending the status quo. Our experience has been that ordinary people in all parts of the world who seek justice are not put-off by our words and do not find our tone condescending. However, those defending the current structural inequalities that exist where the sons and daughters of the Congo are condemned to dependency and impoverishment for generations have been very much offended.

In all that you wrote, we did not see a clear defense of the conflict minerals contention and you did not produce ONE Congolese or African scholar who supports Sasha's contentions. Moreover, you did not rebut our argument with any data or evidence whatsoever that the "blood diamonds" campaign did not bring an end to the wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Angola. Conflict minerals serves more as a distraction from the core challenges faced by the sons and daughters of the Congo face.

Saturday, July 24, 2010 1:39:00 PM

Blogger MN said...

Why the Conflict Diamonds narrative sticks: Because few actually care what happens in the DRC. The solutions are too hard and the place to far away (and probably the people too black) for it to matter. There aren't enough jobs for Americans how can we provide them for the DRC?

People just want to be able to say "we washed our hands of it!" so we can safely ignore it with a quiet conscience.

Saturday, July 24, 2010 2:38:00 PM

Blogger Elizabeth Allen said...

@ Friends of Congo

Like you, I don't believe that an economic approach to eastern Congo will bring peace and justice to the region. I have a great many problems with the Enough Project's advocacy, and the flaws in the Kimberley Process are well documented. Thanks for the Pole Institute critique -- I agree with it. Although I must say, picking on the Enough Project is like taking candy from a baby: it's easy. Smarter assessments of eastern Congo's political economy focus on politics and security sector reform. And when talking about the trade in minerals, they make the distinction between "illegal" activity and "a-legal" activity. There's absolutely nothing wrong with regulating the trade in minerals -- as long as it's done in conjunction with sharp political diplomacy in Kinshasa, Kigali, Bujumbura, and Kampala, and as long as security sector reform is taken seriously. Based on Mr. Tegera's writing, I doubt he'd dispute this.

No, I'm not saying that "because the government in Kin is incompetent and dysfunctional it gives Rwanda the right to invade, destabilize and loot the Congo." What I am saying is that there are many political cooks in eastern Congo's kitchen. By most accounts, it seems as if Kabila has been able to instrumentalize the instability in the East for his own political gain. I've read a number of your comments on this blog, and not once have I heard you expound on what's happening in Kinshasa. Absolutely, the international community needs to continue its pressure on Kigali, but that alone isn't going to solve eastern Congo's myriad problems. This shouldn't be a point of contention for someone like yourself, who's bent on restoring the historical and political context to the region's problems.

(continued below)

Sunday, July 25, 2010 4:59:00 PM

Blogger Elizabeth Allen said...

(continued from above)

I know admittedly little about blood diamonds in West Africa, and I doubt that their regulation played a meaningful role in the cessation of violence in Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Angola. But specifics aside, the underlying idea of Sasha's point (as I understood him/her) was that in certain situations, natural resources can escalate and sustain conflict and prevent parties from reaching what Zartman called a "hurting stalemate." That was certainly the case in Angola in the 90s. If you have any literature refuting this, I would love to read it.

It is neither illegitimate nor illegal for a state to defend itself from cross-border attacks if the host nation is unwilling or unable to halt the attacks and if the international community remains unresponsive. 1996 is different from 1998 and 1999 -- please don't conflate these years. I'd be interested in any interpretation of international law that specifically comments on the legitimacy and legality of Rwanda's 1996 intervention. (And I'm not talking about human rights reports -- I'm talking about international law.) As for the Spanish and French arrest warrants, which of those warrants addresses the legality of Rwandan intervention in 96? (An aside: I find France's warrants laughable given the country's own record in the 94 genocide and its harboring of Agathe Habyarimana for so long. As for Spain, don't you find it curious how the Spanish have been so enthusiastic about prosecuting human rights abuses overseas but threw a fit when Judge Baltasar Garzon tried to prosecute individuals for crimes committed during Spain's post-Franco 1976-83 dictatorship? Garzon is being charged with violating a 1977 amnesty law meant to help Spaniards "move beyond" the Franco years. Besides, I have to say: for someone like yourself, so preoccupied with "Western imposition on African people," I'm surprised by your confidence in the French and Spanish.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010 5:14:00 PM

Blogger Elizabeth Allen said...

(continued from above)

No, I'm actually not axe-grinding here. I didn't ask who made up the membership of FOC, I asked who you were to engage in the kind of rhetoric you've employed in the past, glibly asserting your opinions as synonymous with those of "the Congolese people." As for Mvemba, he's a close personal friend. You'll be happy to know that not only have I read his recent Journal of Democracy piece, but I offered feedback on it during the drafting stages this past spring. (Although I have to say, Mvemba has disagreed with Laura Seay's position on conflict minerals at times -- I know this because I've sent him some of her blog posts, and we've had phone conversations about them. Given that, I'd be surprised if he endorsed some of the things you yourself have written here, tho' he can speak for himself.) As for this sentence of yours -- "Might it be that the problem you have with who we are is because Congolese voices are finally getting a hearing and these voices are in direct contradistinction to Sasha's marketing campaign?" -- what a spokesman you are! Believe it or not, not everyone who disagrees with your flamboyant rhetoric is engaged in a marketing campaign, and disagreeing with you is not synonymous with opposing "Congolese voices." Goodness! Is this self-righteous certitude what American advocacy on African issues has come to? You're just like the Enough Project!

You're cute: trying to equate my being put off by your tone (and your belittling of fellow bloggers) with white racists being put off by the freedom struggles of black peoples. Quite honestly, this has got to be the most ridiculous blog "debate" I've ever had the misfortune of entering into.

As for this: "Our experience has been that ordinary people in all parts of the world who seek justice are not put-off by our words and do not find our tone condescending" -- well, congratulations! You've just found one such person who's deeply put off by your words and tone. Hopefully, for the sake of your organization's PR, someone will seek to rein you in.


Sunday, July 25, 2010 5:19:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Okay. Sorry for not moderating this sooner; I was away from the web this weekend. I'd ask that everyone please keep a respectful tone while evaluating the facts at hand.

Sasha, thanks for commenting. As you know, my main issue with the approach is this idea that the minerals are THE stake everyone has in the region that will force them to the negotiating table. Power dynamics in the Kivus are about far more than just the mineral wealth. Setting aside all the logistical issues of tracing the supply chains/dealing with corruption/the high likelihood that the producers will find loopholes, I'm just not convinced this is going to have nearly the effect you claim it will.

Monday, July 26, 2010 9:24:00 AM

Anonymous Sasha Lezhnev said...

Just clarifying - the previous Sasha here isn't me. It seems there is another blogger called Sasha in Rwanda. In any case, I hope the bill will spur real reform from companies and the regional governments, and we will be pushing hard for the governance, security, and economic issues that need to be addressed, now that Congo has more policy attention.

Monday, July 26, 2010 5:46:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

TIA - Thank you for all this and the interesting thread on minerals and the DRC.
Hooray for your unplanned break from moderation above which enabled Elizabeth Allen to expose FOC and his tiresome rhetoric, the style of which we are I am sure all familiar with from a number of posters.
Elizabeth Allen - I take my hat off to you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010 9:07:00 AM

Anonymous Learning about Congo said...

I will be more interested to hear from all the experts on this page. I am new to this and seem to understand what the foc just posted. I now am confused with this conflict minerals thing... is it going to stop rebels from raping women in the Congo? From what he or she from foc is saying, it won't. And no one has corrected that. Can you guys help me understand how the certification will work to stop the war. It made me so mad to know 5.4 million people have died in that country and I want to do something. If all of you don't believe it will end the war... what will?

Friday, July 30, 2010 9:15:00 AM


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