Letter to the editor: U.S. holds responsibility to prevent mineral exploitation in Democratic Republic of Congo


John Bompengo/AP

John Kafarhire, Contributing Writer

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is known to be one of the richest countries in the world by its natural resources attracting several other countries and multinational companies. However, the country has undergone, throughout its history, different atrocities of genocidal proportions. Today, the Congolese population lives crushed under the suffering and injustices done by a system in which human lives can be traded against a cell phone.

More than 6 million Congolese have lost their lives in conflicts over minerals in the Congo in the last three decades. The eastern region of the country has been under the control of several armed groups and militia who atrociously kill innocent people in order to take land rich in highly demanded minerals, such as cobalt, coltan, copper, and diamonds. Some multinational companies have been involved in those conflicts by either funding or supporting those groups in order to get cheap deals in the purchase of minerals essential for electronic devices like computers, smart phones, video games, etc.

For much of the past decade, cheap supplies of minerals, derived from these mines have flowed into a long and complex supply chain, involving infamous groups, such as the Hutu militia associated with the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It is time to end these atrocities!

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, has required companies whose products contain tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold to conduct supply chain checks, known as due diligence, on minerals that may originate from the DRC or its neighboring countries. Since then, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers have been reluctant to welcome that decision, arguing that it imposes too many costs, goes beyond congressional intent, and violates First Amendment freedoms by forcing companies to their own.

In 2017, Enough Project, a nongovernmental organization aimed at supporting peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones, published a report on company rankings titled “Taking Conflict Out of Consumer Gadgets,” in which it assesses progress made by some companies to eliminate conflict minerals from their supply. There still is a long way to go and this issue of conflict minerals will continue to grow worse if we do not offer global solutions to the quandary of the DRC.

The history of the DRC is mixed with tragedies and silence that few people have tried to explore and denounce the entailed injustices. The issue of conflict minerals needs to be addressed and peace restored in the eastern region of the DRC so that Congolese can benefit from their natural resources in a decent way and enjoy a better social life without wars and conflicts led by the greed of capitalism.

That is why denouncing all these atrocities today turns out to be the work of every one of us considered as consumers of products that might contain conflict minerals from the DRC. It is our responsibility, especially students and, in a way, main consumers of electronic products, to take action and influence our decision makers to effectively intervene and implement regulations that can prevent our providers from being involved in the deterioration of conditions of life in countries like the DRC.