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The Link Between the Phone in Your Hand & Bloodiest Conflict in Modern Human History

We live in a world that is so thoroughly connected: our cell phones connect us to our friends and family across vast distances while our computers connect us virtually to our work colleagues across town, sometimes in other countries. Our cars connect us in space from point A to point B. All of our modern technologies are oriented around connection, in ways we know and love; and also in ways of which we are barely aware. These same devices, every single one of them, connect us to a human tragedy that is unfolding invisibly and virtually right before our very eyes.

The conflict in the Congo today has been raging for decades now, with estimated death tolls in the millions since 1996 alone. Countless armed rebel militias and rogue government forces have been terrorizing the people in pursuit of ethnic vendettas and amassing greater personal power and wealth. Amidst all this chaos, evidence suggests that your phone, your computer, and your government all play significant, timeless roles in keeping this conflict going—centuries of racism, imperialism, and capitalism keeping our Congolese siblings oppressed in exchange for commodities and profits. By the time you finish reading this article, hopefully you will understand that you have already been investing in it, and act accordingly.

A Brief History of Exploitation in the Congo

Pre-Colonial Congo :

The conflict in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo goes back hundreds of years to the pre-colonial era of European commerce with Africa. Many European explorers believed the interior of the Congo River Basin to be virtually inaccessible because of the dense forest vegetation, the inhospitable climate, and the unfamiliar terrain. However, through a combination of deceit and manipulation, the Europeans could readily exploit the most valuable resource any region offers–the people. Initial seeds of conflict were sewn in Central Africa by Portuguese traders who employed divide-and-conquer tactics to bolster their supply of slave laborers, but later Dutch and other European traders would join, seeking slaves and profits.

Traders would sell guns and cheap goods for enslaved men and women, who were often prisoners of war from local conflicts. The guns were used to further conquest, which netted more prisoners of war and thus more trading leverage with the Europeans. By no means did a majority of African communities take part in these aggressive European war games, and where Europeans found resistance to engage in divide-and-conquer politics, they were content to engage in the violence themselves to acquire African bodies. The vast majority of people who were kidnapped from Africa over the course of the entire slave trade came from the Congo region in Central Africa. Some of the largest slave ports in the slave trade were stationed here, in Angola and at the mouth of the Congo River, where millions of subjects of several mighty Bantu kingdoms were first treated like chattel and sold into enslavement in New World colonies like Brazil and Haiti.

King Leopold’s Congo:

In 1884, several of the most powerful European nations convened for the Berlin Conference, where they would carve up Africa into pieces upon which they would each lay claim. The small, landlocked European nation of Belgium was granted the vast territory of the Congo River Basin. However, unlike the other nations of the conference, the Congo fell under the personal purview of King Leopold II rather than under the control of the broader Belgian government.

Deceptively calling this new open-air prison camp the “Congo Free State,” Belgium’s Leopold II viewed and treated the Congo as his own private property, whose land and enormous resources were to be used for his personal gain. This possessive and materialistic attitude combined with a deeply racist worldview, which still dominated European thinking facilitated the expansion of Belgian domination over the Congo’s resources, from human resource exploitation to unprecedented mineral, ecological, and other forms of devastating economic exploitation.

King Leopold effectively claimed exclusive rights to the bodies of the African people who lived in that colony. As is typical of colonial regimes, free travel outside the borders of the colony was prohibited and indigenous labor was recruited to extract the wealth of the land and send it to the rest of the world. An infrastructure of extraction was developed in the Congo to consolidate and export the resources that Leopold used to enrich himself as well as the nation of Belgium. Food was cultivated and exported. Ores such as gold and tin were mined and sent abroad. Lumber was cut down and rubber was collected and processed for export. Elephants were slaughtered en masse for their ivory. Meanwhile, Leopold’s brutal economic exploitation was matched by his equally, if not more heinous, treatment of the Congolese people.

Congolese natives were exported to Europe where they were put on display in zoos and studied like animals by European scientists to further their “scientific” understanding of their own racism–and even this pales in comparison to the full extent of the damage done. Under the reign of King Leopold II, an estimated 10 to 15 million Congolese natives were killed. Ten to fifteen MILLION, more than half of the indigenous population of the Congo at the time, were annihilated. This genocide was attributed to any number of factors endemic to racist, colonial regimes, but is undeniably linked to Leopold’s own disregard for the humanity of the Congolese and his pursuit of acquiring innumerable quantities of wealth through Congolese resources. The infamous story of a Congolese child who was hanged because his father did not produce enough crop to meet a quota established by the colonizers betrays only a fraction of the wicked nature of Leopold’s genocide.

Beyond the unfathomable death toll, many millions more had their bodies mutilated and maimed, as chopping off hands became a favored tool of the occupying Belgian colonialists for saving bullets, exacting punishments, and even for recreation. This is to say very little of the other numerous forms of disenfranchisement from the fruit of their very own lands that the Belgians wrought upon the Congolese, such as: the land that was stolen; the men, women, & children who were raped and tortured; the colonial education system which systematically indoctrinated Congolese people into self-hatred and simultaneous veneration of Western culture; the distribution of resources to foreign private corporations who would continue to keep the Congo’s wealth away from the Congolese people ad perpétuo; the development of discriminatory legal institutions designed literally to criminalize Congolese and “protect” Belgians. The horrors experienced by Congolese people under Leopold II and the Belgian colonizers knew no bounds, and unfortunately they would set the stage for many years to come.

Belgian Congo:

After two decades of presiding over the cruelest despotism in the Congo, the country was removed from King Leopold’s authority and transferred to the rule of the Belgian state in 1908. In spite of this regime change, which was regarded widely across Europe as a moral, diplomatic, and economically favorable shift, the material conditions for Congolese people hardly changed. The Belgian state continued to push a message of “civilizing” the Congo through Christianity and culture while continuing to profit from the expansive resource extraction infrastructure that King Leopold had established in the Congo.

It should be noted that the Belgian perception of themselves as civilizers through education and missionary work served as an internal justification for their continued exploitation of Congolese people and resources. This self-reinforcing loop of white saviorship naturally manifested in rehabilitation of the image of King Leopold II in the eyes of Belgians and in the eyes of Europeans in general. There is a strong argument to be made that the transfer of power from Leopold to the Belgian state was not because of a moral obligation to treat the Congolese better, but was more economically incentivized by European business interests, with the Belgian state being a far easier negotiating partner than Leopold himself. Therefore, it is no surprise that this transfer of power resulted in virtually no change in the status quo in the Congo regarding the treatment of people nor the allocation of Congolese resources–mineral or otherwise.

Belgium’s direct exploitation of colonial Congo would continue until 1960 when the Congo, under the passionate leadership of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, gained its official Independence from Belgian rule. However, the bright future that Patrice Lumumba symbolized for the Congo, African unity, and Afro-diasporic reparations was dashed when Lumumba was ousted in a coup and assassinated in January 1961, after holding office for less than 10 weeks. The combined efforts of Belgian, U.S., and local Congolese forces orchestrated the coup and assassination. The prospect of Congolese Independence was one that Belgium resisted feverishly through the 1950s. Ultimately, the nation that had been most dependent on these resources for the 80 years prior (Belgium), was not ready to let Congolese resources fall into the hands of Congolese people without a fight. Belgium released the Congo into independence, but under the condition that Belgium continues to have a significant say in the economy and politics of the country. You can be free, but only as long as you listen to what we tell you to do.

Independent Congo:

From 1965 until today the Congo has been in a particular state of disarray, governed by undemocratic African strong men who’s brutality and perpetuation of the exploitative status quo has been sanctioned and funded by Western powers, including Belgium and the United States. In 1965, President Mobutu Sese Seko pioneered the African strong man image by mobilizing state security forces into his personal guard, developing the national televised propaganda system of the Congolese state, and installing friends and associates into positions of power based on personal relationships rather than merit. The Congolese leaders who have succeeded Mobutu have largely followed in the same steps, cultivating a public atmosphere in which dissension is discouraged at threat of violence, as well as building an insurmountable public debt with financial institutions such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) which numbers today in the tens of billions of dollars.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda of the Hutus against the Tutsis marked a watershed moment in the nature of the conflict facing the Congolese people. The genocide committed in Rwanda saw an massive influx of ~2 million Rwandan refugees into Eastern Congo–one of the most valued regions on the planet for its dense concentration of highly sought after minerals like coltan and tungsten. This was followed by a Rwandan invasion of the Congo in pursuit of the refugees, the ouster of Mobutu, and the installation of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997. Under the leadership of Laurent and later his son Joseph Kabila (Laurent was assassinated by his close associates in 2001), the DRC has seen no shortage of intense socio-political instability: fraudulent elections, factional conflicts raging in the East, wars involving several other African nations, and millions dead in the most violent ongoing conflict since World War II.

Today, many of the historical atrocities that were visited upon the Congolese people during the colonial era continue to afflict the lives of regular people. Much of the murder, maiming, rape, displacement, and other human rights violations that were committed 100 years ago by Belgian forces are now done ostensibly by local Congolese forces. According to a report from the International Rescue Committee (IRC), 3.8 million people are estimated to have died in the Congo between 1998 and 2004 alone as a direct or indirect result of the Second Congo War, with some estimates citing a modest 6 million deaths in the DRC since World War II.

The Drive for Resources

It is common in discourse on the Congo to hear discussion of either the horrors that King Leopold II brought upon the Congolese people or the more recent atrocities that have been committed in the DRC since independence. King Leopold’s proverbial ghost is conjured to explain the evils of colonialism and condemn the colonizers, while the iron fist of Mobuto, Kagame, and the Kabilas remind us that Africans can be cruel leaders as well. These reminders taken alone are useful, albeit superficial; however, the real value and understanding of the lessons contained in the history of the Congo lies in bridging the gap between these two histories. When we focus on the colonizers, we miss the present that exists literally in front of our faces, and when we focus on the sellout African leaders, we miss the profound historical context that precedes them while running through history into this very moment.

Through each of these historical narratives, there are two constants that remain vital to our developing a workable analysis of the problem in the Congo and what we can do to fix it: natural resources and the West.

The influence of Western powers in the Congo for the purpose of monopolizing the Congo’s natural resources is explicitly clear in the earlier narratives of Leopold and Belgian Congo. Unfortunately, as is typical of neocolonial historiography, European influence in African affairs is almost routinely left out of historical analysis on independent nations. The presumption is that once a nation, particularly an African nation, has declared independence, it is unflinchingly the master of its own affairs and the shaper of its own destiny. While it’s true that many European apologists insist that Europe no longer interferes in African affairs, those who are familiar with neocolonialism, either academically or by lived experience, know that this could not be further from the truth.

Following the waves of independence that swept through Africa in the 1950s and 60s (after Europe, bankrupt from World War II, was forced to give up its colonial possessions), a new global order was established on a level previously unheard of. International organizations with unprecedented oversight capabilities were established. Organizations such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations (UN), etc. adopted missions of making the world a better place, but functionally maintained the primacy of the West above all other outcomes. Private corporations in the United States and Europe enjoyed a renewed influence on the world stage from the 1970s, onward; and the last few decades of the 20th century witnessed the growing importance of computer technology on the global market. Over the years, each of these factors has played a central role in how Western institutions manipulate the control and flow of resources in the Congo.

As noted earlier, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in January of 1961 in a plot orchestrated by Belgian and US forces. A staunch Pan-Africanist, anti-imperialist, and genuine lover of his people in the Congo and African people across the globe, Lumumba believed that the Congolese people deserved to not only the right of self-determination in governance, but also deserved to heal from their past–a point that the Belgian government at the time made it clear they were not prepared to facilitate (Belgium’s popular public position at the time was still one of fond reflection at the “civilizing” benevolence of Leopold II in the Congo). Confronting the brutality of colonialism and allowing true democracy to take hold in the Congo would mean allowing the people to use their own resources to enrich themselves. Given the depth of Lumumba’s commitment to Pan-African ideals, this meant the African continent as a whole and even African-Americans stood to reclaim incredible power on the world stage after hundreds of years of disenfranchisement. Because they so greatly feared this reality, Western powers conspired to kill Lumumba and allow the Congo to remain in invisible chains. It cannot be overstated that all of this conflict and turmoil–the Western commitment to defending anti-democratic, anti-human, anti-life policies in the Congo–is all in the name of the natural resources and wealth that exist there.

To put things into perspective, let’s look at how much wealth the Congo has had to offer over the years. Current estimates value the untapped potential mineral resources in the DRC at around $24 trillion, easily making it one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. Keep in mind, this is the value today–after several centuries of brutal wealth extraction. In Leopold’s time the prime exports were gold, ivory, and rubber. Rubber was in particularly high demand due to the Industrial Revolution, and the cultivation of this labor intensive product was a major driver behind the violence sanctioned under Leopold’s quota system. Historian Adam Hochschild estimates that Leopold personally made a real profit of up to $1.1 billion from his plunder of the Congo in just over two decades–profits which were used to build notable roads and monuments which characterize the landscape of Brussels and Ostend, Belgium to this very day (i.e. The Royal Museum for Central Africa, the Cinquantenaire, etc.).

Exact figures on the general profitability of the Congo for Belgium (1908-1959) are less readily available, but until the Great Depression of 1929, the colony was still highly profitable for Belgium’s public and private sector. Belgium invested heavily in railroad, harbor, and mining infrastructure with the expectation of reaping great returns on these investments. World War II saw an increase in production in the Congo as Congolese copper was used to produce Allied shell casings and Congo uranium was purchased to develop nuclear weapons. It’s clear that right up until independence, Belgium had a vested interest in securing ongoing profits from the Congo.

Former president Mobuto Sese Seko is said to have amassed a personal fortune of $4 billion by the time he left office. Though much of this came from IMF loans and Western aid dollars, there is no doubt that this sum also significantly reflects wealth from the natural resources of the land. The family of Joseph Kabila, the most recent former president, is known to have vast controlling stakes over a number of private corporations in the DRC, just three of which are valued at nearly $400 million. As much wealth as these heads-of-state accumulate from these resources, their primary function under the neocolonial mandate is to ensure that Western powers–European and American private interests–have easy and unfettered access to these resources. So while a rough heuristic, the wealth of the presidents suggests that these Western corporations are making that much more profit from the Congo’s resources.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MY PHONE?

If this article was written 120 years ago it would read something more like, “How Your Fancy New Bike Doth Contribute to the Murder of the Congolese Masses,” referring to the direct relationship between European demand for bicycles and car tires and the absurd quotas, torture, and death that was leveraged in the Congo to supply the European market with bicycle and car tires. A century ago, European states and private companies were aware of the incalculable wealth contained above and within the land in the Congo. However, their awareness of the wealth they had to tap was limited by the technologies and market demands of their day. What they stole from the Congo was more of a reflection of what they knew to steal, and less of a reflection of the utility the land had to offer. And this principle holds true even for today. For example, until 1936, uranium was little more than an item of scientific curiosity. This meant that uranium mines which had been uncovered in the Katanga province in southeast Congo had little market value. However, by 1945 with the invention of atomic weaponry, the value of uranium and uranium deposits in the DRC shot up with global demand.

With each seismic technological shift the West has undergone since the start of the colonial era, the Congo and the Global South have played pivotal roles in providing the raw materials. And with each shift, the West has doubled down on its dominion over the lands and people from whom they plunder these resources. People were sequestered from the Congo as slaves to fuel colonization of the New World and rubber was exported to fuel the demands of the Industrial Revolution. The most recent revolution in modern technology has been the Computer Age. Over the past 70 years the technologies associated with this revolution have become more compact, efficient, powerful, and more thoroughly integrated into our daily lives. Along with the classic mineral treasures sought from Congolese mines (i.e. gold, diamonds, copper, etc.), the demands of the Computer Age have boosted the demand and the price for a whole new host of metals, and Western corporate giants, per the trend of history, are funding the chaos for the sake of access and profit.

It’s no coincidence that the bulk of the conflict today is concentrated in Eastern Congo’s Katanga and Kivu regions near vast mineral deposits of immense value. According to the UN Mapping Report (an inquiry into the many war crimes and human rights violations committed by armed groups in the Congo between 1993 and 2003), during the Second Congo War (1998-2004) warring parties made an apparent shift from a conflict over cultural/ethnic divisions and toward control over natural resources. These resources include valuable metals such as coltan, cobalt, tin, tungsten, tantalum and many more. These metals alone are necessary components in everything from cell phone batteries, jet engines, and gas turbines to nuclear fuel rods, electric car batteries, and laptop computers. The Mapping Report also notes that “the copper belt that runs through Katanga and Zambia contains 34% of the world’s cobalt and 10% of the world’s copper. Moreover, 60% – 80% of global coltan reserves, used in the manufacture of mobile phones, computers and other electronic equipment, can be found in North and South Kivu.”

So here we have mineral resources of disproportionate value to maintain our current ways of life and armed rogue militias from the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and other neighboring nations all vying for control of these resources to both fund their war efforts as well as build their personal wealth. Many articles stop here, further communicating that the ultimate issue surrounding the conflict in the DRC lies with the Congo’s inability to solve its own problems. But we also know that these militias aren’t seeking control of the resources as an end in themselves. We know they’re not making the cell phones or the electric cars. Thus we have a question of who stands to profit more from the ongoing conflict and how?

The Profiteers

Many readers will be familiar with the fact that US corporations favor deregulation, outsourcing, and profiteering domestically. The modern capitalist paradigm encourages the businessperson to pursue profits at all costs. This means employing undocumented workers or prison laborers on large-scale argircultural farms to cut down on benefit and wage expenses, integrating cheap chemicals into food to substitute for more expensive natural ingredients, or not raising average wages of the average worker over the past 40 years. The profits earned from all of these shortcuts are funneled to the highest tiers of the private sector while the people on the ground doing the work are left to fend for themselves. In this respect, an unstable Congo represents a literal goldmine for Western prospectors seeking the lowest procurement rates.

A stable state with a functioning, democratic government would undoubtedly take possession of its own resources and sell them at fair rates on the international market in response to market demand–that is to say, a self-determined Congo would be able to sell its minerals at high prices to Western buyers, because Congo has close to a natural monopoly on these resources, and the Western buyers really need these resources to manufacture and sell their goods. If we imagine this system, we can see Tesla and Apple and US military contractors paying premium rates for the raw materials. This could cause the price of a new iPhone to skyrocket if the company passes the expense of the raw materials on to the customer. Likewise, the company could more generously distribute the profits, opting instead to keep prices the same and simply not give their highest earning employees exorbitant raises, bonuses, etc. In the DRC, the fair exchange price would also reflect in living wages going to all of the workers at the mines. Workers who were previously making $5 a day would now be making dollars per hour. The opportunity to work and earn an honest living makes the danger of armed conflict far less appealing. Children would be able to go to school instead of working in the mines to support their families, and schools and communities would be thriving institutions because Western powers have left the Congolese people to self-govern without interference and they’ve chosen to invest in education and an internal infrastructure of growth instead of extraction.

In reality, the conflict encourages profiteering in any number of abysmal ways. The violence itself is used as a tool of clearing land. Rebel groups can readily displace a village full of people, thus clearing the land for development. Real estate values are also drastically lowered, making investment attractive for the high-risk investor with excellent local connections. Beyond the low overhead, the legal apparatus in the most dire conflict zones is insufficient to protect people’s lives, let alone worker rights. This leaves eligible workers vulnerable to stark wage exploitation, working for hours on end in the physically demanding mines, with minimal protective equipment, no benefits, and no overtime for just $5 a day. Child labor is frequently employed in the mines as children either work to support their families or are orphaned due to the violence and must work to support themselves. It’s difficult to say how vast of a savings this nets for the Western buyers of these products as well as the Western (and Chinese) operators of the mines, but Anglo-Swiss multinational mining company Glencore has a significant presence in the DRC mining and trading cobalt, copper, and other precious metals. What’s interesting about Glencore (Tesla’s cobalt supplier) is 1. how much higher their ~$215 billion valuation is than their closest competitor, BHP (valued at ~$43 billion) and 2. that critical coverage of Glencore focuses consistently on their participation in corrupt dealings with the government of the DRC or other entities, while saying nothing about Glencore’s treatment of the workers at their mines.  Between the savings in overhead and on the human resource front, one can reasonably assume that the profits margins are worth the conflict to the stakeholders.

The earlier example of the joint US and Belgian effort to execute Patrice Lumumba is not for nothing. It is the first example of the extent the West was willing to go to maintain as profitable a stake as possible in a sovereign African territory. Throughout Mobutu’s decades-long regime, he was backed by the United States diplomatically as well as through aid. The more recent episode of fraudulent elections in 2016 under Joseph Kabila also could not have gone off without the explicit sanction of the United States favoring his authoritarian strategy. The UN Mapping Report mentioned earlier also explicitly names the perpetrators of the genocide in the DRC from 1993 to 2003, and even outlines options for holding these bad actors accountable and restoring justice and law to the Congo. The report was released in 2010 during the Obama administration. His administration took no action to address or support the stipulation of the report. This was the same administration that saw fit to invade Libya and deposed Gaddafi just one year later under the pretense that their government was “endangering civilians.” The U.S. is also one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President, who has been consistently implicated in Congolese conflict since 1994. There is no shortage of evidence to suggest that the U.S. government and private corporations are not only aware of the conflict in the DRC, but actively invested in it, and it’s important to speculate as to why that is.

From the Fortune 500 Forbes list for 2020 we can create a short list of Western companies whose products and services benefit directly or indirectly from the conflict over the mines. Two telecom companies made the top 20 this year: Verizon and AT&T. Being that both companies rely on cell phone usage to pull in profits, it’s safe to say that although they don’t make the phones, they rely heavily on the coltan supplies coming out of the Congo. Apple comes in at number four this year as a producer of software and hardware devices that includes cell phones, tablets, laptops and more. This range of products demands a range of metals including copper, cobalt, coltan, and tin. With so many products reliant on conflict minerals for manufacture, there’s a highly likelihood that any given Apple product bears the residue of Western-backed conflict. General Motors and Ford Motors also feature on the list, with copper and cobalt being necessary components of their propulsion systems and wiring. Walmart tops the Forbes list, and while they boast no direct connection to the Congolese conflict minerals, big box outlets like Walmart and Costco (who is also on the list) are significant vendors of electronic items like appliances, entertainment systems, video game consoles, etc. The broader takeaway here is that just as conflict-laden technology plays a significant role in our personal lives, almost every company on the Fortune 500 list relies on multitudes of electronic devices to operate, even if their businesses have nothing to do with tech.

Minerals coming from the Congo are vital to the supply chains of some of the largest companies in the world. Companies who put products in your pocket, at your workstation, in your parking spot. Products that connect people across town and across the world. Products that keep us informed and update, that enable us to get work done, to schedule our lives. Products that power nuclear reactors and build bombs. However, there is a price to all of this beyond the exorbitant price tag on the new iPhone. It’s a price that connects a lack of mean wage increases since 1980 to the increasing wealth gap as U.S. billionaires approach trillionaire status; a price that connects those ultra-rich business people to government whose pro-democracy rhetorical does not align with its anti-democratic exercises abroad; a price that connects the cell phone in your pocket or in your hand right now to the rape, murder, and maiming our people 4,000 miles away, right now and 100 years ago.

What Can We Do?

It’s not an easy truth to bear, knowing that your way of life right now is in part a product of this archaic exploitation in the 21st century. What are we to do about the Congo? Boycott technology? Yes, that’s start. Using and purchasing fewer devices, taking care of your current devices so they last longer and result in less frequent purchases, even abstaining from phones and computers all together is a goal. More conscientious observers suggest being more mindful of where companies source their minerals. Given the complexity of many of these supply chains, it’s not likely that companies can guarantee sourcing conflict-free minerals on a regular basis, but it is still crucial that we demand supply chain transparency. The technology and engineering-minded folks out there can reflect on ways to build new cell phones and computers that don’t rely on conflict minerals to operate.

Boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning tech firms that source minerals from conflict-heavy regions is also an impactful move on macro and micro scales. Sell your Apple or Tesla stock and commit to a general investment strategy that consciously rejects companies who condone oppressive practices and regimes. A well-organized boycott of a single product sector (e.g. electric cars, cell phones, batteries), though ambitious, would clearly communicate enough consumer discontent with potentially abusive mineral sourcing. Even conscientious targeting of a single brand stands to generate enough media buzz around the conflict to educate millions on the reality of the genocide and what people can do to end it. When supply chains are completely transparent, when the conflict has subsided and room is made for genuine transformation in the nature of society in the Congo, then we can start to reconsider our support of electronic device manufacturers and other culpable parties. It’s important for these companies to see that investors and consumers reject even the possibility that their products might be associated with–let alone perpetuating—the most violent ongoing genocide since World War II.

More important than informing consumers is letting the government know that we condemn their support of anti-human, authoritarian regimes. The conflict in the DRC could not persist at current, tragic proportions without the tacit approval of the United States government: through aid, regime change, diplomatic support of tyrants, silence in the face of atrocious acts, etc. With enough ground-swell, even the most stubborn of governments are responsive to the demands of the people. Learn more about the conflict in the Congo. Engage your friends and family in these conversations to spread awareness throughout your community. Join organizations such as Friends of the Congo to get active in raising consciousness and fighting for changes. Flip the script and use your devices to organize. The lives of our siblings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo depend on it; and in a very real sense, our lives do too. As the great Malcolm X once said, “As long as we think that we should get Mississippi straightened out before we worry about the Congo, you’ll never get Mississippi straightened out.”

Sources:

“Reversing a Bloody Legacy” (Congolese history – present)
https://www.wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/the-ends-of-history/reversing-a-bloody-legacy/

“King Leopold’s Ghost” (Congolese history)
https://ieas.unideb.hu/admin/file_6617.pdf
UN Mapping Report, pdf
https://fotcweb.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mapping_report_en.pdf

Fortune 500 Top 20
https://fortune.com/fortune500/

Top 10 Mining Companies by Revenue
https://www.statista.com/statistics/272707/ranking-of-top-10-mining-companies-based-on-revenue/

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports, DRC
https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/congo-democratic-republic-drc


article on Conflict Minerals
https://enoughproject.org/special-topics/progress-and-challenges-conflict-minerals-facts-dodd-frank-1502

article on Mining Cobalt
https://www.cfr.org/blog/why-cobalt-mining-drc-needs-urgent-attention

article on the Wealth of Kabila family
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-12-15/with-his-family-fortune-at-stake-congo-president-kabila-digs-in

article on 2016 DRC election postponement
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2016/11/22/the-postponed-drc-elections-what-does-the-drcs-situation-look-like-now/

By Kwadjo Danso

About Community Movement Builders (118 Articles)
Community Movement Builders (CMB) is a member-based collective of black people dedicated to being a force for creating sustainable self-determining communities through cooperative economic advancement and collective community organizing. Our mission is rooted in Black love and equity. Grassroots Thinking is our newsletter/community blog about our work and movement activity

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