The trending social media hashtag, #CongoIsBleeding has drawn global attention to the killings, child slavery, corruption and deadly conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC” or “DR Congo”) that stem from the exploitation of minerals from its mines by multinational companies. The hashtag trended in various jurisdictions around the world like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and the United Kingdom[i]. DR Congo has the world’s most prolific cobalt mines, producing about half of the world’s utilised cobalt. The metal is a mineral used in making batteries as well as magnetic steels in phones, laptops among others. The lucrative nature of cobalt mining means that all efforts to ensure production can match the eternally elastic global demand are put in. The east of the DRC, where the mines are located, is now home to nearly 40,000 child labourers digging for the minerals that would eventually be utilized by giant corporations.[ii]
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country in Central Africa that is potentially one of the richest countries on earth, but colonialism, slavery and corruption have turned it into one of the poorest with a poverty rate of 72%[iii]. The conflict in DR Congo has been referred to as the world’s bloodiest conflict since World War II and one of world’s worst active crises. It is a war in which more than five million people have died, millions more have been driven to the brink by starvation and disease and several million women and girls have been raped. Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of U.S. $24 trillion. It seems inconceivable that the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and on paper one of the richest, teeming with copper, diamonds and gold, vast farmlands of spectacular fertility and hydropower capable of lighting up Africa, is now one of the poorest, most hopeless nations on earth. Unfortunately, there are no promising solutions within grasp, or even within sight.[iv]
Human rights violations and looting natural resources of Congo started when Belgium invaded and occupied Congo. King of Belgium Leopold II killed around 15million Congolese. However, the origins of the current violence in the DRC are in the massive refugee crisis and spillover from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda[v]. The Congolese government was unable to control and defeat the various armed groups, some of which directly threatened populations in neighbouring countries, and war eventually broke out. From 1998 to 2003, government forces supported by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe fought rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda in what is known as the Second Congo War. Despite a peace deal in 2002 and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, ongoing violence perpetrated by armed groups against civilians in the eastern region has continued, largely due to poor governance, weak institutions, and rampant corruption. Weak governance and the prevalence of many armed groups have subjected Congolese civilians to widespread rape and sexual violence, massive human rights violations, and extreme poverty. The African Union, United Nations, and neighbouring countries have struggled to address threats posed by rebel groups and promote sustainable development.
In a report by Washington Post earlier this year[vi], the United Nations’ office for human rights said that killings and rapes committed by ethnic militias in Congo’s northeastern Ituri province from 2017 to 2019 may amount to crimes against humanity and even genocide. Congo is silently going through a silent holocaust and some people call it ‘the nightmare in heaven’. Millions of people are being killed so that the western world can benefit from its natural resources. More than 60% of the world’s cobalt reserves are found in Congo, used in the production of smartphones. Western countries are providing financial military aid to invade regions… click here to continue reading in our October 2020 Africa Edition