Suffocating Congo’s War – by John Prendergast, Sasha Lezhnev and Lauren Wolfe (Foreign Policy – February 7, 2015)

Rules imposed by Dodd-Frank are cutting off a critical source of funding for armed groups that have plagued the country for more than 20 years.

In a critique on the campaign to end the trade in conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Foreign Policy contributor Lauren Wolfe asserts that three main arguments used by the campaign are myths. Over a decade of independent research by the United Nations, Congolese research bodies, and NGOs, as well as key leaders of Congolese civil society, however, reveal critical evidence on why work on conflict minerals is one important part of the solution in eastern Congo.

In its assessment of the impact of the Dodd-Frank legislation on conflict minerals, the article misses the larger picture of the deadly conflict in eastern Congo and ignores many important voices of Congolese civil society.

[Editor’s note: A response from Lauren Wolfe can be found at the end of this article.]

Alleged myth: Armed groups control and rely on most of Congo’s mines, and Dodd-Frank has helped to counteract them.

Fact: Armed groups and their backers have profited heavily from minerals in eastern Congo, and Dodd-Frank Section 1502 is starting to transform that. But there is still a long way to go.

The conflict in eastern Congo began in the early 1990s for reasons other than minerals, but minerals then became a critical fuel and driver of the violence. Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo for the second time in 1998, establishing “a system for effective use of natural resources in the territory under their control, setting up departments of finance and mining in charge of awarding contracts and sales,” according to the International Crisis Group.

Multiple United Nations expert panels and Congolese research bodies have documented since 2001 how various armed groups and their backers in Kigali, Kampala, and Kinshasa made hundreds of millions of dollars by illicitly exploiting natural resources, in particular minerals.

One U.N. panel called minerals “the engine of the conflict,” a prominent Congolese research institute cited minerals as “a major source of income and of conflict in North Kivu as in the whole of the DRC,” and a third U.N. Group of Experts called minerals “the principal method used by FDLR [rebel group] to raise funds.”

In 2008 alone, armed groups were estimated to have generated between $138 to $226 million from the minerals trade by controlling mines and trading routes. In 2010, the year that Dodd-Frank passed, the U.N. Group of Experts reported that, “In the [Congo’s] Kivu provinces, almost every mining deposit [was] controlled by a military group.”

The Congolese Archbishop of Bukavu François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo explained to our team in 2014, “War is planned by people who want to get a hold of this wealth. There is a correlation between minerals and rape. Most places that are home to mines are where the assaults on women have been most dramatic.”

For the rest of this article, click here: