Here’s How Cell Phones Have Killed Six Million Africans in the Congo

(ANTIMEDIA) The Democratic Republic of Congo perpetually endures some of the most brutal and horrific fighting the world has ever seen. Increasingly dubbed the new “holocaust,” the conflict has claimed over 5.4 million lives since it erupted in 1998.

By comparison, that is more or less the same as if the entire five-year Syrian civil war occurred every year for a ten-year period. The main difference is that the corporate media rarely focuses on the conflict in Congo, mainly because Congo is not currently as geopolitically relevant to the U.S.-NATO empire as countries like Syria, which is currently taking up a great deal of the military-industrial apparatus’ time and energy.

Though this author is well aware the world doesn’t regard African deaths as equal to their European counterparts (unless they fit a particular pro-intervention narrative), examining the events that have unfolded in the resource-rich area may help us understand how our consumerist tendencies help facilitate widespread death and suffering many miles away.

The Congo is home to a number of mineral resources technology companies use in their products (such as cell phones, DVD players, laptops, hard drives and gaming devices) — namely, tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold. Fighting for the control of these mineral resources and the enormous wealth which they generate has directly exacerbated the conflict in Congo

As stated in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, a piece of financial legislation that also requires companies to track and report the conflict minerals used in their products:

“[T]he exploitation and trade of conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is helping to finance conflict characterized by extreme levels of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly sexual- and gender-based violence, and contributing to an emergency humanitarian situation therein.”

According to the Telegraph, in addition to tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold, millions of people in the developed world rely on a rare mineral known as coltan (columbium-tantalite ore). Eighty percent of the world’s supply can be found in Africa, and global demand for this mineral is “keeping the armies of the Congo’s ceaseless wars fighting.

The Telegraph explains how this came to be, beginning with Belgian King Leopold II’s savage takeover of Congo territory in the 19th century:

“The links between Congo’s vast riches and its blood-stained history stretch back to the Belgian colonial era, when King Leopold II forced labourers onto his rubber plantations and ordered his agents to chop off the hands of workers who failed to fulfill their harvest quotas.

“But throughout the latter half of the 1990s and the beginning of this decade, as Congo descended into two wars, its mineral wealth began directly to stoke its conflict. At the height of a coltan price boom in 2001, the UN estimated that rebel groups were earning $20 million a month from mineral exploitation, though the market price has since fallen.”

The aforementioned Dodd-Frank Act should be making progress on this issue as it attempts to curb companies’ use of conflict minerals and force them to invest more time learning where their minerals originate. As reported by theInternational Business Times:

“U.S. firms are spending millions to comply with a complex provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that requires companies to divulge their use of any of the four conflict minerals and disclose whether they originated in Congo or surrounding countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The 5-year-old rule has increased the demand for conflict-free minerals and has redirected some of the cash flow away from armed groups in eastern Congo.”

However, despite its stated purpose, the legislation has not been effective at achieving its objectives, as explained further by the International Business Times:

“But recent reports revealed most companies that filed the disclosures were unable to source the minerals, and experts said a convoluted supply chain, costly audits and ongoing conflict in Congo’s mineral-rich east have created hurdles. The difficulty to comply with the provision also has raised fears some companies might choose to sever trade with the world’s poorest country, where corruption and violence are rife.”

As the United States and many other nations press for direct war in Syria, supposedly for humanitarian reasons, the plight of the Congolese continues without mainstream media coverage. What the average consumer can do to help end the suffering of others becomes a real issue — one we must formulate ourselves.

An organization called Raise Hope For Congo provides a glimmer of optimism for those of us who want to make a difference:

“The conflict minerals problem is complicated, and the suffering in Congo is immense. But there is good news: because we as electronics consumers are tied so directly to the problem, we can actually play a role in ending the violence.“We must raise our collective voice as consumers and demand conflict-free electronics. By pressuring electronics companies to remove conflict minerals from their supply chains, we can help remove fuel from the fire in Congo.


“Help end war in Congo. Visit our take action page to add your voice to the movement.”

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