The complexity of the group of nations that are referred to as developing countries continues to escalate by the day. This diversity stems from both the economic and social-political structures that define the status of a given country. More often than not, these countries have developed one or two areas of specialty that enables them to cope up economically with other countries; this is mainly in the form of production of minerals, agriculture or rendering some special services. The exploitation of these sectors usually provides the blueprint for achievement of the set developmental targets, in that the degree of exploitation of these sectors often dictates the state of development.
In the face of these, these countries at the background happen to be mired in startling catastrophes’, issues that undermine the rate of economic growth. Biting poverty, total absence to little or no security, inequity and the citizens being denied their basic human rights are sometimes the order of the day, they characterize the life of the populace that dwell in these Nations. In addition to the above mentioned problems which the middle class country has to grapple with, lies the underlying factor, in most states it is the weak political structures and the absence of a political will to combat and accommodate the divergent views that the leadership may experience. In a nutshell, this paper will focus on; the factors that have contributed to the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the conflict minerals in DRC and, the governments efforts put in place to avert conflicts and the conclusion of the paper.
Endowed with immense natural mineral resources is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country crippled by the political jinx that has bedeviled it, consequently dragging its economy to a near collapse. The tug-of- war for the control of the mineral rich eastern DRC dates back in the year 1965, the era of coup, that subsequently led to the overthrow and untimely death of Patrice Lumumba, the then premier of DRC (Lobe, 2003). The mastermind of the coup d’etat was Lieutenant General Mobutu, who later became the president of the DRC. The demise of the then Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba led to political and civil unrest, that consequently bred a host of militia groups. One such significant rebel group was led by Laurent Desire Kabila, a political antagonist of Mobutu and a proponent of Patrice Lumumba (Lobe, 2003). Laurent Kabila’s rebel forces executed intermittent but less radical attacks on the Mobutu’s forces for more than three decades, but it was not until the year 1996 when he launched his serious attack on the government’s forces (Benedict, 2006).
In December 1996, Kabila’s rebel forces backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Angola, started their exodus towards the west, committing atrocities to the civilians with a motive of conquering the Mobutu’s government (Lobe, 2003). The Kabila’s invasion, which was later designated as the ‘First Congo War’, culminated to the ousting of Mobutu, who later passed on in the year 1997 in Morocco (Lobe, 2003). The self-proclaimed President Laurent Kabila took over the power and the control of the nation with its vast mineral resources. The year 1998 so to it the inception of the ‘Second Congo War’, a war that was characterized by conflicting interests amongst different African countries neighboring the DRC, and the diamond mining companies which were supporting the Kabila’s government in return for better mining deals (Benedict, 2006). The governments which were against Kabila’s government were however, the Rwandan and Ugandan governments. The duo, who had helped the Kabila’s rebel forces to topple the Mobutu’s government, had their own selfish interests geared towards seeking favors from the Mobutu’s government, and ultimately benefit from the mineral rich regions (Hochschild, 2004).
After the ‘First Congo War’, the two nations were reluctant to leave, prompting Kabila, who was receiving hostility from the public due to his inclusion of the foreigners in his government, to oust them tersely (Hchschild, 2004). The two nations retaliated by throwing their weight behind the rebel forces, trying to attack Kabila’s government from different directions. Burundi followed suit by backing the rebel forces adding to Kabila’s predicaments. By 23rd August 1998, the rebels had conquered the diamond rich Kisangani centre further weakening Kabila’s government (Ismi, 2001).
In an effort to consolidate his government, Kabila started fostering diplomatic relations with other African nations which later bore fruits (Benedict, 2006). These led to the mitigation of the rebellious groups enhancing political sobriety in the DRC. It was on 18th January 1999 in Windhoek, Namibia, when a consensus for a ceasefire was reached bringing calm to a nation that was in the threshold of collapse (Rosthchild, 1996). The accord did not however change much the situation in DRC since there was continued upheavals especially in the diamond rich Kisangani centre, where rebels were still fighting for the control. This resulted to: loss of life, loss of properties, displacement of the citizens and fleeing of other citizens to the neighboring nations to seek asylum (Snow, 2006). The attempts to bring to an end the massacres in the DRC so to it the intervention of the UN peace forces in February 24th 2000, which was to foresee the enactment of a prior ceasefire agreement (Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement) geared towards disarming of all groups (Rosthchild, 1996). In January 16th 2000, in Zimbabwe, an aborted assassination attempt on President Laurent Kabila, so him escape with fatal injuries (Lobe, 2003).
President Kabila, who succumbed to sustained injuries, later died paving way for his son Joseph Kabila, who was sworn in as the next president by the parliament which was loyal to his government (Benedict, 2006). In April 2001, a panel of eminent persons from the UN carried out an “investigation on the illegal exploitation of diamond, copper, gold, coltan and other lucrative resources” (Ismi, 2001). Their report brought to books three states including Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe governments accused of robbing of the DRC of its natural resources (Rupesighe, 1987). Sanctions were imposed on these nations in an effort to punish them. In spite of diplomatic interventions and signing of never-ending agreements, the foreign rebel forces presence were still evident. Sick and tired of war, the forces either started withdrawing or joining Joseph Kabila’s government buttressing his influence to the entire nation (Lobe, 2003). The exploitation by foreign states with respect to illegitimate acquisition of the mineral sources did not however end. On 21st October 2001, a UN report accused Ugandan and Rwandan governments of “illicit trafficking of plundered resource” (Lobe, 2003).
It was not until 30th July 2006 after the promulgation of the new constitution, that a democratic atmosphere was felt which led to the formation of an interim government and, on 30th August, a free and a fair election was held (Benedict, 2006). The election, which was a two horse race between Joseph Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba, resulted in the triumph of the later, garnering a massive 44% of the total votes (Benedict, 2006). The ‘Second Congo War’ is certainly the most lethal conflict of the recent times in history since the World War II. The aftermath of the war, which is felt up to date, has led to lose of approximately more than 5.4 million lives (Hochschild, 2004). The causes of deaths were mainly; hunger and diseases, coupled with violation of human rights and crimes against humanity.
The war has left a disturbing legacy characterized by; insecurity along the eastern border adjoining Rwanda to the DRC, spontaneous uprising of unorganized and yet weaker rebel groups, looting of resources, and rape among others (Ismi, 2001). All these are impediments towards a stable political friendly economic. The factors that have contributed to the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Being one of the epicenters of the essential mineral resources in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not a safe heaven for investment due to its unstable political atmosphere. The DRC has experienced a lot of setbacks in the quest to achieving its political stability ever since independence. This is a country marred by coup, a string of spontaneous insurgency causing political turmoil to the otherwise good state. To the centre of these conflicts are the selfish interests that are deeply rooted in their leaders, who make arbitrary political decisions at their whims. Majority of the mineral deposits in DRC are skewed towards the east, a region that has claimed many stakeholders from within and outside the borders of the DRC (Ismi, 2001). The stakeholders, who are mainly illegitimate owners, are always corrupt demanding bribes from the interested parties bagging in millions of dollars money (Ismi, 2001).
The cash obtained from their dubious dealings are the sole causes of political instability, since they are used to fund rebel groups (Monty, 2003). These illegal interests include the ‘local militias, Congolese and Rwandese rebels’ (Lobe, 2003). These groups control a vast region of more than half of the deposits dwarfing the region owned by the government. Although there are many mineral deposits in the DRC serving various industries around the world, the spotlight has been on the minerals supporting electronic industry (Rupesinghe, 1987). Electronic industry renders a wider market for the minerals in the DRC, feeding a “range of complex supply chains, serving as raw materials for component parts in everything from cell phones and cutting tools to jet engines and jewelry” (Monty, 2001). Efforts by an array of stakeholders have tried to come to the bottom of these evils by trying to establish the connection between the minerals and the conflicts.
Giant steps have been made by the electronics industry to address the issue at hand. NGO’s have lobbied campaigns with an aim of bringing awareness to the public domain on how the two issues relate (Rosthchild, 1996). The government has however, tried to establish laws and legislations that bars dubious supply chains that, hinder a maximum revenue collection with respect to mining (Rosthchild, 1996).
Conflict minerals in DRC and, the government’s efforts put in place to avert conflicts
Stakeholders have established three significant issues that have played pivotal role in sparking conflicts in the DRC. These issues focus on; supply chain responsibility, government engagement and, economic development and capacity building (Rosthchild, 1996). With regards to supply chain responsibility, a responsible chain of supply seeks to bring sanity in the supply, by addressing potential issues that might ignite conflicts (Rosthchild, 1996).
The chain should also encourage tracking and traceability of a particular mineral in order to find the genesis incase of any conflict (Rosthchild, 1996). To curb mineral conflicts in the DRC, the stakeholders call for government engagement that will enact laws and legislations, merge with international aid programs and, generally foster peace in the region (Rupesinghe, 1987). The stakeholders further try to avert the conflict by campaigning for economic development and capacity building, which generally seeks to benefit the locals by channeling back the revenues obtained to the community.
There are many supply chains in the DRC mineral rich eastern region based on the type of mineral. These minerals benefit the armed groups by generating cash used to purchase arms important in the invasion of the rival groups. They generate their revenues through taxation and generally trading on the minerals after seizure and control of mine holes (Benedict, 2006). The groups benefiting from these mineral deposits are mainly the rebels groups, with taxation revenues accounting for the vast share. However, the mineral industry in the DRC does not only benefit the rebel forces but it does also sustain the livelihood of the Congolese people. It is alleged that the industry supports a population 16% of the total population either directly or indirectly. The supply chains encompass so many middlemen from the mineral deposits to the final user.
There are however, underground artisanal miners who are considered illegal and, they are actually the stumbling blocks towards the achievement of a transparent supply chain (Ismi, 2001). The artisans, who are normally small scale miners, are always tax evaders performing their tasks such that they avoid both the government and the rebels. The efforts to establish the origin of the minerals are always hampered by the inclusion of foreign minerals causing mix-up in the minerals. Nevertheless, the miners wrestle with the issues touching on the infringement of their rights, prompting the NGO’s to intervene. There have been so many reported cases of sexual abuse, child labor, and, deaths due to collapse of the mine holes not (Snow, 2006). All these issues are barriers towards economic development, political stability notwithstanding. Changes in the demand of the minerals, coupled with the lack of substitute minerals, are the main catalyst sparking conflicts in the region (Monty, 2001).
There is a likelihood of unabated conflicts amongst different factions if, the purchase of the conflict minerals will continue outside the stipulated supply chains. It is upon the stakeholders to coordinate the functions of supply chains to arrest the problem (Monty, 2001). A government commitment in the quest to restore political stability will be a great incentive that will mitigate the socio-economic evils synonymous with the region. The dilemma faced by the DRC government in an effort to consolidate its power over the control of the mineral rich eastern region include; “weak local governance institutions, porous borders and limited transparency in international supply chains” (Rupesighe, 1987). The most critical issue that has enhanced vulnerability of the Kabila’s government to insurgent groups is a weak local government. The Kabila’s government needs to take a keen eye on this particular issue, which has eluded him to date, limiting his influence on the region. It is evident that foreign governments have been and are still funding rebel forces to some extent (Hochschild, 2004). It is only through diplomatic relations that the DRC government can restrain these foreign intrusions.
In a nutshell, the governments responsibilities in an effort to bring calm the situation in eastern DRC should be geared towards fostering peaceful atmosphere with its neighbors. Efforts by the DRC’s government together with the international community have to some extend influenced the psychology of the interested parties trying to bring sanity to the industry. Among the recent endeavors is the revised DRC Mining Code; a code that seeks to harmonize with the international standards to enhance transparency in the mining industry. The Code was nevertheless criticized as being a plot by the senior government figures to exploit artisanal miners. Moreover, the government’s agility to insist on supply chain traceability has elevated the level of transparency an octave high (Rupesinghe, 1987).
The international community has nevertheless played their part. The US government through its legislation called ‘Conflict Mineral Trade Act’ emphasized on the need for traceability on the minerals obtained by its companies (Rupesinghe, 1987). Another US effort led by the secretary of states in the year 2009, called upon the countries official to address issues like corruption and sexual abuse (Snow, 2006). The United Nations has had its fare share of contribution aimed at restoring peace and political stability in the region. It has a group of experts on the ground reporting on the progress of activities in the region (Monty, 2001).
Other groups e.g. the European Union have shown their concern in the need for a sobriety in the region.
The companies have improved their levels of participation in the peace building of the war-torn mineral rich region of the DRC. Their concern is depended on the gravity of their activities (Monty, 2001). The companies engage their member countries into diplomatic relations, enhancing peaceful atmosphere for trade which is a great impetus to the conflict mitigation. There are a number of ways that the interested companies engage their governments into a cordial relationship with DRC. Companies may also engage themselves with the government, abiding by its legislations thereby enhancing transparency in the supply chain. In a synopsis, the need for a calm political environment calls for the company’s participation in collaboration with the central government. The success of a chain of supply largely depends on the impact it has to its locals and, its efforts to establish the origin of the mineral tackling the issue of conflict minerals in a ‘bottom-up’ direction (Rupesinghe, 1987).
The problems that are continuously being experienced by the Democratic Republic of Congo are partly attributed to its mineral deposits which are located in the periphery of the central government. The location of these deposits towards the eastern border far from the central government is a hindering factor that has influenced the predomination of the rebel forces in these regions. In pursuit for supremacy over mineral rich regions, it is necessary that the government engage in international relations with other nations. The government should come up with legislations and laws that enhance efficient flow of business activities devoid of selfish interest that might spark war. The government should encourage Non Governmental Organizations participation to create awareness to the public as well as trying to educate them on the relation between minerals and conflicts. This will enable the government curb conflicts and hence enjoy a peaceful environment that will encourage economic growth
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