The natural riches of the Congo are vast. Often considered to be a geological miracle, the Congo is home to critical resources for many industries of the industrialized nations of the world. This being the case the country, known as the heart of Africa, should be developing and prospering as these resources make their way to the international market. The cruel irony is that despite an estimated 24 trillion dollars in mineral resources the country is one of the poorest in the world while competing nations with their respective corporations strive to maintain access to the minerals.
Beginning with the occupation of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium in the late 1800s, who decimated approximately half of the population while extracting mainly rubber and ivory for the benefit of Belgium, the exploitation has continued until today where the resources of choice find their destination in modern electronic devices, military equipment, automotive and aerospace industries as well as common household items of developed nations. One constant has been the intervention of external players who have held a disproportionate trade relationship to the point of outright looting in the face of multiple international guidelines that demand that the resources of undeveloped nations, as a priority of trade, need to benefit the said country.
The DRC is the world leading producer of mined cobalt and industrial diamonds according to U.S. Geological Survey among a plethora of other resources such as copper, niobium, tantalum (coltan), petroleum, gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydroelectric power, timber, coffee, etc… yet the country fails to retain the benefit from the resources.
Articles and Reports
Excerpts with links
“The [UN] Group of Experts published a report in December 2008 that documented how armed groups in eastern D.R.C. finance their activities through the exploitation of natural resources and provided evidence of the collaboration and support of Rwandan authorities and the Government of the D.R.C. in supporting such groups. In November 2011, the Group of Experts issued a new report, which stated that armed groups in eastern D.R.C. continue to engage in the illegal extraction of minerals to finance their activities. “ US State Department, 2012
“The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, because of its lucrative nature, has created a “win-win” situation for all belligerents. Adversaries and enemies are at times partners in business (Maï-Maï and Rwandans and Congolese rebels), prisoners of Hutu origin are mine workers of RPA, enemies get weapons from the same dealers and use the same intermediaries. Business has superseded security concerns. The only loser in this huge business venture is the Congolese people… Presidents Kagame [Rwanda] and Museveni [Uganda] are on the verge of becoming the godfathers of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have indirectly given criminal cartels a unique opportunity to organize and operate in this fragile and sensitive region.” UN Security Council S/2001/357
“The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned … International co-operation for the economic development of developing countries, whether in the form of public or private capital investments, exchange of goods and services, technical assistance, or exchange of scientific information, shall be such as to further their independent national development and shall be based upon respect for their sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources.” UN General Assembly Resolution 1803 – “Permanent sovereignty over natural resources”
“Depending on circumstances, enterprises may need to consider additional standards. For instance, enterprises should respect the human rights of individuals belonging to specific groups or populations that require particular attention, where they may have adverse human rights impacts on them. In this connection, United Nations instruments have elaborated further on the rights of indigenous peoples; persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; women; children; persons with disabilities; and migrant workers and their families. Moreover, in situations of armed conflict enterprises should respect the standards of international humanitarian law, which can help enterprises avoid the risks of causing or contributing to adverse impacts when operating in such difficult environments.” OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises