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 HIV-infected.

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."

Congo watch

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