Even before the Democratic Republic of the Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, the rich mineral resources of the central-African country have been of primary interest to both domestic and foreign powers. The DRC holds one of the world’s largest supplies of diamonds, gold, silver, cobalt, uranium, oil, coal, and tropical forests.
During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union attempted to take advantage of the DRC’s uranium deposits to make nuclear weapons and become more powerful.
Even the most recent leaders, however, continue to exploit the treasures of the land.
According to a report by The Sentry, these leaders, such as Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila, misuse their power by depositing the majority of their country’s profits in European banks. Since these overseas banks offer more privacy and require less tax, the dictators profit more secretly.
Although misleadership and foreign warfare first sparked and continues to contribute to the mineral conflict of the Congo, the increased demand for technology is what most promotes the ongoing conflict.
Due to the abundance of coltan, a rare but essential mineral for the manufacture of high-tech devices, the DRC has become the central victim of conflict brought by lusting foreigners striving to provide for the international markets.
“I didn’t know anything about the DRC before class this year,” said Christy Yoon, a sophomore at a Palos Verdes high school. “I never thought that buying a phone or MacBook would be supporting such a violent system in another country!”
Like Yoon, many are unaware of the DRC’s struggles. The increased demands for further advancements in technology may benefit more developed countries, but such technology only results in a more unstable, risky environment for the Congolese. For the impoverished citizens whose lives have been destroyed by such corrupt influence, mining is often the only way of life.
As a teenage miner said, “Sometimes the mountain caves in. The miners are buried forever and everyone forgets about them. The employers simply replace the dead.”
In addition to job dangers, the mineral conflict has resulted in hundreds of guerilla conflicts between certain rebel groups (most funded by international companies), citizens, and conservators of the DRC’s resources. The end-result of these battles is mostly the death and displacement of thousands of innocent Congolese, as well as increased profit for industries.
As human rights advocate Kambale Musavuli said, “The Congolese are killed like flies… As long as the businesses can have access to the resources, the deaths of millions of people do not mean anything to them.”
While fully moving away from the decades of violence is up to the citizens and government of the DRC, each individual can play an important role in helping the Congolese.
“I feel like there’s not much I can do except boycott the companies who get their minerals from such inhumane regions,” said Yoon. “I also think that raising awareness towards this issue can help support the voiceless, desperate citizens of the Congo.”