Congo's Civil War and Global Corporations
March 6, 2006
In the Congo, the death toll is now close
to six million people. Their civil war has been going on for ten
years now, with no end in sight. Most of the deaths have been
civilians - killed by starvation and disease.
And you didn't even know there was a civil
war going on in the Congo. (I didn't either until a few days ago.)
Who wants to hear about a civil war killing millions of people
in some Third World country?
The war is between the Congolese army
and different rebel groups backed by Uganda and Rwanda. This war
has been called "Africa's First World War" and "the
world's most neglected emergency." They're fighting over
control of the natural resources in the area: diamonds, tin, copper,
gold and most of all, coltan (I hadn't heard of it either).
Coltan is a heat-resistant mineral that's
heavily used in cell phones and laptops. Because of the huge demand,
coltan mining is bringing in millions of dollars to the governments
and militias fighting over turf.
On the surface this looks like ethnic
warfare. But the flames are being fanned by the corporations that
are buying these minerals. All of the coltan is bought by just
three companies: Cabot Inc. (American), H.C. Starc (German) and
Nigncxia (Chinese). These are the only companies that are able
to process coltan for use in electronic components. The final
product is then sold to Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Sony, etc.
In the "small world" department,
Sam Bodman, former CEO of Cabot Inc. is now George W. Bush's Secretary
of Energy. When Bush was governor of Texas, he permitted Cabot
and several other major polluters to maintain or even increase
their levels of toxic emissions.
Weapons from all over the U.S. and Europe
are pouring into the Congo - just what they need.
Congo's civil war is affecting everyone
in the country. Farmers who have been displaced have practically
no choice except to work in the mines. Many other people are forced
into prostitution. About two million people in the region are
The deforestation caused by the mining
has wiped out endangered species. The increased poverty and desperation
has led people to hunt gorillas and other endangered animals for
food. The biodiversity of the region is irreversibly damaged.
The Eastern Lowland Gorilla is close to
extinction. In 1991 there were about 8,000 of them. As of the
year 2000, there were less than a thousand of them left.
This article concludes with:
"Somehow, it's not surprising that
this information isn't included in the instruction manual that
comes with your cell phone. Perhaps mobile phones should be outfitted
with stickers that read: 'Warning! This device was created with
raw materials from central Africa. These materials are rare, non-renewable,
were sold to fund a bloody civil war and have caused the virtual
elimination of endangered species. Have a nice day.' People need
to realize that there is a direct link between the gadgets that
make their lives more convenient and the frightening reality of
the violence, turmoil and destruction that plague our world."