Real Opportunity for Peace in Congo? I’ll Take Action for That.
by Chloe Christman
Contrary to the view expressed in a recent OpEd in the New York Times by David Aaronson, the conflict mineral provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act has not caused or exacerbated the dire economic and social situation in eastern Congo. It is over fifteen years of conflict, decades of governmental mismanagement and neglect, a legacy of corruption and exploitation, and lack of impunity, all in the face of a multimillion dollar minerals trade financing armed groups and perpetuating violence that has terrorized the population for decades.
Rather, Dodd-Frank offers real opportunity for reform in eastern Congo by confronting the key economic driver of conflict – the trade in conflict minerals. This momentum must be seized, and your voice can help ensure these critical steps are taken.
The well-documented connection between the minerals trade and violence - from the money made by commanders to the proximity of attacks to mining communities - is absolutely impossible to ignore, and one can literally see it without even looking. Just spend a day in Goma, look at the “coltan” houses – mansions sprouting up in the middle of some of the poorest shanty towns in the city, and ask who lives there and why. The answer? People like Bosco Ntaganda, a general in the Congolese Army who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. He and others like him reap daily the economic benefits of some of the largest mines in the region.
This has been occurring long before Dodd-Frank, but the bill’s passage has provided a necessary jolt to this status quo. In fact, there is much local support for the legislation because it has already set in motion what is needed for change in not only the mining sector itself but also for a broader set of reforms, as reported by the United Nations. Dodd-Frank has proven to be a first step to squeeze out armed groups, to cut their millions in funding, and, with further support, will help create the space for a legitimate mining sector to emerge that actually leads to development and a better life for people in eastern Congo. This momentum must be seized, and there are clear, tangible steps forward for which the United States can and should be a leader.
To start, these systems need to be strengthened and expanded, and brought together under the umbrella of a credible, international certification system that ensures minerals on the market from eastern Congo or surrounding areas are not financing armed groups. Traceability, transparency, independent monitoring – it’s all beginning to happen, but requires full buy-in and follow through to achieve the highest impact.
The United States must not back down now. We have an obligation to follow through on what was started with Dodd-Frank because it has the ability to improve the lives of millions of people today and for future generations. In a conflict as complicated as Congo, it is rare to have such momentum and opportunity for real change. What we can do now as citizens is demonstrate to our leaders that there is a real political demand here in the United States for their action on Congo.
Join us in calling on Secretary Clinton to be a leader for certification of the region’s minerals, and encourage her to take the next step needed for peace in Congo. This is a real opportunity for peace in Congo. Take action for that.