How has coltan exploitation affected the people of Eastern Congo?

Coltan is a blend of columbium-tantaline and as of 2000 was one of the main strategic minerals within the Congo. Coltan is a vital component in the produce of capacitors, the digital components that control the stream of current inside circuit boards. Tantalum is particularly sought after since it is a metallic element that is clearly a specifically good conductor of electricity and is highly repellent to heating. Capacitors made of tantalum (coltan) are located inside virtually all notebook computers, pagers, iphones and mobile phones. 80% of global coltan reserves are positioned in Africa with the majority of these reserves within the Congo (Vesperini, 2001).

The War

War has afflicted the Eastern Congo since 1993, and the Congo (DRC) all together since 1996. The conflict of liberation broke out in August 1998 when Rwandan and Ugandan supported Rassemblement Congolais put la Democratie (RCD) launched a advertising campaign to displace Laurent-Desire Kabila as leader of Zaire (Congo). The RCD directed to control insurgency movements operating in the Congo, defend the Congolese Tutsi human population and to overthrow Laurent Kabila. However this war reached a stalemate and a powerful partition of the Congolese place occurred. For the east, rebels handled the important abundant nutrient reserves while to the western world Kabila still held control. The overall result of the conflict was to maintain Eastern Congo and a region known as 'the Kivus' as a violent buffer zone. This was good for Rwanda as it was able to gain internal security while Rwandan makes profited enormously from the mineral prosperity within the conflict current economic climate in the Kivus. Over four years the war in the Congo has stated more lives 'than have passed away in every of the other wars on the globe mixed over this period' (IRC, 2001:19). Analysts argue that the essential cause for the discord in the Congo in 1998 rests with the deterioration of specialist of the Zairian express in eastern places as a result of problem and mismanagement of the plan of Mobutu. Mobutu became a by-word for an indiosyncratic corruption and ingrained economic resilience known as 'debrouillez-vous' (fend for your self). Round the borders of eastern Zaire (Congo) trading sites generated profits for the prosperous and well-connected (MacGaffey, 2000). Mobutu's routine left a politics and security vacuum which was loaded by rebel movements, this destabilisation of the DRC was aggravated by factors including forearms proliferation and the instrumental exploitation of ethnicity which led to cultural alliances being developed at both country and local level. An influx of Rwandan refugees in 1994-1995 further exacerbated the tension in the region threatening the interpersonal, ethnic and political balance while providing a fertile breeding surface for radical organizations (Moyroud C. 2002). In situations where the authority of the state of hawaii has broken down (such as experienced in the Congo during Mobutu's reign) casual and against the law high-profit economical activities including drug trafficking, illegal nutrient exploitation and forearms sales increase. As time passes those involved in these illicit monetary activities lose their moral foundation completely no longer support peacefulness initiatives but instead take on encouraging discord and on situations can promote destabilisation of local dimensions which will increase profit. In a situation such as this the development of a 'warfare economy' occurs which was especially evident in the Congo from the overdue 1990's.

Coltan Exploitation

Eastern Congo and specifically the Kivu region have been neglected by commercial mining, however the nutrient resources are so immense and easy to get at that they create without significant investment (in infrastructure or labour training) huge amounts of riches, measurable in vast amounts of US dollars (Moyroud, 2002). Kivu coltan is of high quality and easily accessible, without requiring specialised equipment for its extraction. The extraction and exploitation of natural resources in the Congo is not a new occurrence, but a recurrent feature of Congolese history. As Mobutu's routine began to fail, cultural services in the Kivus ceased entirely, the populace were pressured to provide their own services with some support from international NGO's. In eastern Congo, businesses no more exchanged with the rest of the Congo but instead Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania became their transit locations for their exports. During the outbreak of the warfare of liberation in 1998 this resource extraction and exploitation of coltan in particular became intimately associated with extractive assault (Moyroud, 2002). Rebel supervision have become more thinking about the exploitation of natural resources in the Kivus than providing local services for the population. Eastern Congolese neighborhoods have suffered from the lack of development or investment in infrastructure for mining or cultural services which has been further compounded by federal instability, problem and ethnic conflict.

The environment of the Congo has been transformed greatly consequently of coltan extraction. In eastern Congo, coltan debris are found in farms, forests, savannahs, and in private and federal government lands. The uncontrolled influx of hundreds of people into lands for coltan mining has induced many changes to the environment. Animals is threatened while forests have had their tree's felled for firewood. High people densities within the shielded reserves improve the chances of human disease transmitting and animals can be killed through poaching or by firearms. Among many problems brought to natural reserves in Eastern Congo is the debarking of indigenous trees for nutrient separation. Land erosion also occurs scheduled to land excavation and mining while globe trenches are created to capture drinking water and separate minerals causing the degradation of normal water catchments. David Sheppard, IUCN's Mind of Program on Protected areas says, 'mining, together with the presence of so many people looking for food, is seriously impacting on the ecology of shielded sites, just as violation of world traditions principles. It really is feared that a large proportion of the elephant people in Kahuzi-Biega nationwide recreation area has been wiped out and a significant number of gorillas' (Moyroud, 2002).

By 2002 an estimated 15, 000 people were exploiting coltan and other minerals on 48 sites throughout the Kahuzi-Biega nationwide playground in eastern Congo. After having a dramatic drop in coltan price in late 2001 many people have settled in the area and started to farm, hunt and mine resulting in 'ecocide'. Coltan is not the only real problem impacting the Congolese but can be an important discord sustaining factor. They have exacerbated the turmoil by generating income for rebels and their supporters. It has also generated new sizes in the already existing inter-community issues and it has accelerated environmental degradation.

The circulation of coltan revenue highlights the severe problems associated with issue minerals. Income from coltan and where it is utilized is dictated by the goals and strategies of varied celebrities in the coltan cycle. At extraction level Congolese broker agents have used the money to boost their standard of living because they build new properties or by creating new businesses. Nevertheless the majority of brokers are in cooperation with the Rwandan Army and it is the RCD officials who are receiving the majority of the profit made by coltan. The 35, 000 Rwandan soldiers in the Congo in 2001 were all well paid and outfitted while the suffering and wounded were well looked after. The uneven syndication of coltan revenue has triggered great harm to the relationship between Congolese people and their neighbours including Rwanda and Uganda in particular (Moyroud, 2002).

Coltans impact on conflict

The exploitation of coltan has renewed old conflicts between different ethnic teams in Kivu. In the 'Masisi' zone there were fierce confrontations between Congolese Rwandans and other Congolese areas over land ownership and citizenship. Violent fights also occur between your Congolese government and its allies on one part, and, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Congolse rebels on the other.

The Congo is among the most epitome of an 'overall economy of conflict' with coltan at its heart and soul. An market of war commenced to develop in Congo to fill the political and security vacuum which was permitted to develop under the regime of Mobutu. The consequence of this is an economy dominated by primary resource extraction involving the removal and export of minerals including platinum, diamond jewelry and coltan. These activities were managed by armed service and militia stars backed by regional power and multinationals. With control of the primary resources armed service stars in eastern Congo could actually sustain and finance their armies using the gains accrued through nutrient removal and export (Jackson, 2003). With too little central talk about control and the complex dynamics of the Congolese battle, local areas were often abused and used by militias. It had been common for forced or prisoner labour to be used in mining coltan and other minerals in lands under armed forces control. The 20 million strong human population of Eastern Congo is suffering from a complete insufficient government, lack of legislations and ever-changing rules which are imposed by invading armies from Rwanda and Uganda, and roving bands of well-armed predators. A UN Security Council statement has highlighted that coltan is perpetuating Congo's civil battle. The expert panel said the conflict 'has become mainly about access, control and trade of minerals'. The report said that the war 'has created a 'win-win' situation for those belligerents. Adversaries and foes are in times partners running a business, get weapons from the same sellers, and use the same intermediaries. Business has superseded security concerns' (Harden 2001). The economically enthusiastic militia activity results in looting and intra-militia preventing over resources.

As due to coltan removal and exploitation, many Congolese people have been pressured out of their homes and are actually residing in camps or in cities. The war which has been exacerbated by coltan removal has led to great rises in sexual violence (Human Protection under the law Watch, 2002). The war and source of information exploitation has heightened anti-Rwandan and anti-Tutsi sentiment among the local Congolese who feel their lands are being pillaged by outsiders.

There has been great environmental and structural destruction induced by 'coltan fever'. Agricultural creation has reduced because of insecure access to fields and scheduled to altering land use to assist in nutrient exploitation. The coltan fuelled conflict has caused a whole abandonment of public services creating infrastructural decline resulting in blocked usage of towns and market segments; major highway routes have been ruined or badly degraded (Jackson, 2003).

In order to understand how coltan has impacted and improved the lives of Congolese people I am going to briefly outline articles by Blaine Harden printed in the brand new York Times in 2001. This article follows the life span of Mama Doudou a indigenous Congolese girl whose life has been sculpted by coltan exploitation in Eastern Congo. Mama Doudou took good thing about a dramatic go up in coltan price in early on 2001; she sold breads for highly inflated prices and was elected leader of the camp prostitutes. Mama Doudou had discontinued her position as a traditional chief and joined the thousands of folks illegally mining and working in Ituri forest. Mama Doudou negotiated the terms of endearment among 3 hundred miners and thirty-seven prostitutes. The standard agreement in the camp was for a miner to provide Mama Doudou a kilo of coltan (the money of the mine) and he could then set off with a prostitute. The 'short-term better half' would prepare his food, haul his water and reveal his bed, in return he would give her enough coltan to live a comfortable life in the forest. Because of this type of sex trade in the forest there is an explosion in intimate disease which led to a rise in demand for antibiotics which cost 'a tin of coltan' which at the time was valued at around 27$. Mama Doudou possessed taken benefit of the squalid come across between the global high-tech current economic climate and one of the world's most ruined countries. Another man interviewed in this article illustrates how local militias profited from coltan extraction. Bangazuna a local Congolese man mined in a territory controlled by Ugandan military and rebel allies, he talks about how Ugandan troops extorted him, 'In the morning, when you get yourself up, the Ugandans hands you a load up of cigarettes plus they offer you two bottles of beer. At night, when you surface finish digging, you have to pay them back with coltan, it was very costly - if you won't pay or unless you have coltan, they overcome you and threaten to blast you' (Harden, 2001).


All studies and articles that I have examined have figured coltan has performed a substantial role in sustaining and facilitating turmoil in eastern Congo. Aloys Tegera who directs the Pole Institute, a nongovernmental social-research institute in Goma, eastern Congo say that, 'coltan fuels conflict, nobody can deny that'. Jackson (2003) shows that coltan extraction is an, 'important point of which local, countrywide and local conflicts in the Great Lakes region (eastern Congo) get together and effect each other'. Coltan has modified power relationships within the Congo. Traditional talk about expert has ceased and has given way to armed service might and also to teenagers emboldened and enriched by mineral extraction. Communities in the region have grown to be profoundly ethnicised because of this. Jackson (2003) says that, 'coltan has dangerously fused financial, political and socio-cultural pursuits'. This is illustrated by armed service objectives of the warring factions becoming more and more realigned towards possession of major mineral deposits. This has led to peculiar dynamics within the war in Congo where collaboration and economical alliances between different warring parties have happened to fortify the resource exploitation functions.

The war-economy has changed the aims of militia that have progressively switched from providing cultural coverage to racketeering and monetary exploitation of local populations. The UN -panel of Inquiry (2002) has found that a systematic and intimate romance between economics and armed forces activity has happened in the DRC. The report demonstrates coltan has, 'allowed the Rwandan army to preserve its existence in the DRC. The army has provided cover and security to the individuals and companies extracting the nutrient. These have made money which is distributed to the army, which in turn continues to supply the enabling environment to continue exploitation' (UN -panel of Inquiry, 2001, : Para 130).

Harden (2001) described globalisation as causing 'havoc in a anxious country'. She goes on, 'for the sake of our own electronic playthings, guerrillas were getting rich, gorillas were getting slaughtered, and the neighborhood people were getting paid next to little or nothing to destroy their country's environment'. This type of psychological analogy is not not very true. The DRC is a country endowed with a distinctive biodiversity, wide mineral and forest resources and rich soils for agriculture but is being pillaged and experts in the region are incapable of stopping it. Aloys Tegera who directs a local NGO highlights the desperate actuality of Congo's stressed history and the way the current discord and coltan exploitation by rebel militias is merely one of your litany of tragic happenings to hit the Congo in its stressed background, 'Of course Rwandans are pillaging us, but they are not the first to do it and they are no worse than others. King Leopold achieved it. The Belgians did it. Mobutu and the People in the usa did it. The most sorrowful thing I must live with is that we are incapable of coming up with an elite that can run things with Congolese interests in head' (Harden, 2001).

International resolutions to the problems affecting the DRC are complicated and the impact of these activities could further exacerbate them. An international embargo on natural resources such as coltan could increase pressure for turmoil resolution, nevertheless the impact of eliminating what is for many Congolese, really the only income source, could further impoverish the populace and increase rebel desperation. An area chief illustrates the issues which would impact a post-coltan Congo, 'We can't go back to just how things were before coltan, because before, we had cows and goats, but because the war there were none of them'.

The vicious pattern of warfare in the DRC has been exacerbated by the illegitimate removal and exploitation of natural resources, specifically coltan, that have used a conflict-sustaining role.

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