There is a fledgling movement in congress to regulate consumption of blood minerals in the United States. The Senate has come a little further than The House in terms of embracing this issue, but we need to raise awareness in both houses.
There are many metals found in The DRC that are the bread and butter of green technology and green research. The problem is that whatever the Congolese mines produce gets plundered by the local groups that fight one another. The mines in eastern Congo are controlled directly by the militias, but experts argue that the entire metal trade in the DRC is complicit in this conflict.
Advocacy groups concentrate on "Three T" metals that come from the mines that are controlled by militias: Tantalum, Tin, and Tungsten. Gold is another conflict metal found the The DRC. It is very important to work toward a boycott of these metals if they come from illicit sources -- these are the main metals that fuel the egregious war there.
A few people in congress are interested in stopping the blood mineral trade:
"Blood diamonds," the worldwide campaign to stop the sale of diamonds that fueled a bloody civil war (and the name of a better-than-average Hollywood film) is about to be replaced by conflict minerals, a two-word phrase every bit as catchy but even more difficult to regulate.
Not to mention legislate — a process that is now going on in earnest at the direction of Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).
But I hope this gets your attention, because the violence in The DRC is absolutely monstrous.
Systematic rape in the DRC is unprecedented. It is complicated, because the acts of violence span across ethnic groups, and rape is used in many contexts. It also differs from other systematic rape campaigns in recent European history: it is made fantastically complex by the fact that women have little status and the DRC tolerates rape during relatively peaceful times. In times of war, the government supports militia groups who are allowed to rape and pillage with no consequence.
There are many uses of rape in war. Sometimes women are used for gratification, or because of customs and superstition that sanction rape like in the video above. If it spans across ethnic groups, it is often used as weapon of torture, or for ethnic cleansing. Women are raped in front of their families, they are forced into pregnancies to "dilute" ethnic bloodlines, and they are kidnapped and kept for the wanton comfort of the bloody militias. But the violence between ethnic groups is not limited to rape. The Interahamwe militias particularly have a habit of mutilating women and leaving them to suffer a protracted and painful death.
The UN High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR) on the DRC:
The human rights situation in the DRC continues to deteriorate. Serious violations, such as arbitrary executions, rape, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are pervasive, committed mostly by the army, police and intelligence services. The latter, highly politicized, are often used to commit politically-motivated crimes during specific periods and then revert to daily harassment and intimidation of Congolese citizens. Armed groups operating in the country, both foreign and Congolese, although responsible for only six per cent of documented human rights abuses, have perpetrated massacres, arbitrary executions, abductions of villagers, and subjected women to systematic rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence with full impunity.
What's happening in congress now? There is a bill floating in the Senate, S.891, and another bill is currently under draft in the House. The Senators who are co-sponsering S.900 are: Samuel Brownback, Roger Wicker, Benjamin Cardin, Russell Feingold, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Roland Burris, and Mark Begich.
What can you do without leaving your chair?
-- Write a letter to VP Joe Biden, and tell him that blood minerals support the horrific violence in The DRC.
-- Contact your senators and representative. Your effort here will make an enormous impact toward advancing good legislation. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations does create policy regarding violence the DRC, tell them about the problem of blood minerals, and tell them that you want them to pass a law that regulates conflict metals.
-- If your senator co-sponsored S.891, be sure to tell them that Pt-group metals from the DRC might be complicit blood minerals.
-- Write to the companies that make your electronic devices, and encourage them to boycott blood minerals, sign the Conflict Minerals Pledge and offer certification that their products are blood mineral-free.
-- Work with advocacy groups like Enough, and Raise Hope for Congo.
-- Work with a group that directly supports the women who are affected by the violence in the DRC, like Women for Women International, or HealAfrica. (Diarist recommended!)
-- Learn more. Start by looking at a slideshow about a Congolese tin mine from NYT, or Youtube Taking On Conflict Minerals.
Since the colonial period, empires have plundered, drilled, and mined the African continent with patent disregard for the dignity, living conditions, and human rights of native populations. Today, Africa suffers from severe deforestation and drought, erosion, famine, and disease: UNEP describes the continent as one of the region's most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change. This essay is the first in a series by the Daily Kos EcoJustice Team on environmental injustice in Africa.
Some earlier diaries on Africa by the EcoJustice Team:
The Spoils of Oil in the Sudan
Kampala, Uganda. Case Study I
EcoJustice hosts on Monday evenings at 7PM PST.
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