The North Kivu civil society organizations specialized in the sector of natural resources congratulate the signatories of the said letter for having expressed their point of view on such an important question. By their initiative, the signatories give an opportunity to the voices of the Congolese to express themselves and to inform public opinion about the underlying issues at stake in the campaign against conflict minerals in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the light of the armed conflicts that have been proliferating in the region for more than two decades.
Indeed, the open letter has the merit of having formulated a set of recommendations whose relevance calls for no debate. In particular, it is a wake up call for improving the income of artisanal miners and their working conditions, equivalent to modern slavery. It is also a call for particular attention to be paid to the voices of the Congolese, specifically with regard to mining, its implications on security and human rights in the region.
Otherwise, beyond the formulated recommendations, some assertions put forward raise a series of questions as to the good faith of the signatories and the finality of their initiative. That being so, the North Kivu civil society organizations [the voices of the Congolese] have deemed it necessary to express themselves to reestablish the truth regarding historical facts about conflict minerals and initiatives to fight them.
To do so, we have pinpointed some of these assertions, and have shed some light on them as follows:
By the assertions: 1) “Minerals help to perpetuate conflicts, but they are not their cause”, 2) “Among the structural causes of conflicts in the region, there are on one hand, struggles for power and influence, at national and regional levels, and on the other hand, tensions related to land access, citizenship, and the identity of the different groups that populate the region”, the signatories of the letter contradict 11 Heads of State in the region, who in 2006, had concluded that illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Great Lakes Region is one of the factors causing or aggravating endemic conflicts and persistent insecurity in the Region, at the same time […] a major handicap to reaching the Millennium Development Goals. “These Congolese minerals are too often blended with the blood of victims, the tears of children, and the screams of raped women. It is a fact, not a fatality”, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Martin Kobler, argued in his announcement at the mining conference in Goma, March 23, 2014.
In addition, the signatories of the said letter confirm that “the armed groups do not depend on minerals to survive”. On that matter, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Martin Kobler, Head of MONUSCO – a body present in the region for more than 10 years – confirmed at the mining conference, March 23, 2014, that “some armed groups are born from an appetite for mining, and almost all of them grow, prosper and strengthen themselves thanks to the revenues taken from illegal exploitation of natural resources. Armed groups survive together thanks to illicit taxation on production, control over mining areas, but also thanks to forced labor”. In addition, the Congolese Government, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo and the Congolese civil society organizations have one by one pointed an accusatory finger at the systematic pillaging of minerals and other natural resources, as one of the major causes of conflicts in eastern Congo. Who speaks the truth?
The letter asserts: “the M23, until recently the most powerful non-state armed group in DRC, has never sought to control mining activities directly”. What evidence do we have at hand to make such an assertion when we know that the M23 has tried to weave alliances with local armed groups whose control over mining sites does not need verifying (i.e. Testimony of a renowned expert on the eastern Congo tragedy, Mr. Steve Hege, December 11, 2012 at the American Congress).
The letter seems to rely on UN internal analyses: “… only 8 percent of conflicts in DRC are linked to minerals”. But, it is clear here that it is DRC as a whole. The letter would better inform public opinion if these analyses had established precisely that percentage in space and time. However, whatever the proportion of that percentage would be for Kivu, it should not for all that be underrated for it has as consequences, massive population displacements, the rape of women and the loss of thousands of human lives.
The open letter makes a major revelation: “eastern DRC is 100% militarized economy, in which minerals are only one source of income amongst others, that armed groups and the Congolese army (FARDC) use as means of funding”. Is it really possible that the economy of a territory as vast as about twice the area of France can be one hundred percent militarized?
If such is the case, then all economic actors, above all mining operators, would be operating with capitals from the one hundred percent militarized economy.
Another revelation from the letter is that: “the Congolese government as well as civil society have not been sufficiently consulted on section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank legislation before it was passed […] the only actors that were consulted were proponents of the legislation […]”.
By what magic the American government and NGOs campaigning against conflict minerals could have identified in advance the legislation’s proponents before any field consultation? Was it not the conclusions of consultations that could define those in favor or not of that legislation?
According to the result of the open letter: “besides the impact on the artisanal mining communities and on the local economy, the campaign against ‘conflict minerals’ and the Dodd-Frank [legislation] have not really resulted in the obliteration of armed groups, rather, they have led them to change their sector of activity”.
In our findings, we also noted that the campaign against conflict minerals as well as the requirements of section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank legislation give armed groups no choice but to change the sector of activity, in the absence of a market for their minerals. It is indeed an achievement for the campaign and the legislation to have forced armed groups to leave the artisanal mining sector. Here is an opportunity to request that all ongoing initiatives broaden their field of action to these other sectors that are not taken into account in section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank legislation.
1) Any organization and any individual yearning for peace in eastern Congo and the Great Lakes Region in general is invited to make an effort of scientific and intellectual honesty to refrain from any quick conclusion that tend to contest historical facts of the Congolese tragedy, largely fed by the systematic pillage of natural resources and the illegal exploitation of minerals in eastern Congo;
2) It is time for initiatives to improve the mining sector, to truly engage in pursuing efforts to formalize artisanal mining, to respect the companies’ social and environmental responsibility, human rights, and to develop solid alternative projects for mines that account for the issue of women and children;
3) We take this opportunity to launch a desperate appeal to the Congolese government for a sustained and relentless commitment to give primacy to the process of reforming the security sector, without which initiatives for peace, the improvement of the mining sector and other initiatives will continue to be compromised.
List of Signatory Organizations:
1. Association for the Development of Peasant Initiatives (ASSODIP), Janvier MURAIRI
2. Studies, Observation and Coordination Bureau for the Development of the Walikale Territory (BEDEWA), Prince KIHANGI
3. Centre for Research and Investigation into the Environment, Democracy and Human Rights (CREDDHO), Jeredy MALONGA
4. SOS AFRICA, Fidel BAFILEMBA
5. Studies Centre for Peace and Human Rights (CEPADHO), Me Omar KAVOTA
6. Observatory for Natural Resources (ORN)/Conférence Episcopale Conference for Natural Resources (CERN)/DIOCESE DE GOMA, Tiffany N’ZIL
7. Women’s Synergy for Victims of Sexual Violence (SVFS), Justine MASIKA
8. Civil Society Observatory for Peace Minerals (OSCMP), Alexis MUHIMA
9. Centre of Research on Democracy and Development in Africa (CREDDA-ULPGL), Raphael WEMA
10. Aid and Action for Peace (AAP), Me Nelly MBANGU
11. Citizens Action Network for Democracy (RACID), Daniel KALONGA
12. Women’s World Campaign, Eudoxie NZIAVAKE
13. Provincial Committee of Nord-Kivu Women (CPF-NK), Gogo KAVIRA
14. Dynamic of Women Lawyers (DFJ), Mireille NTAMBUKA
15. Crossroads for Justice, Development and Human Rights (CJDH), Fortunat MARONGA,
16. Information For Everyone (IPM), Fiston MISONA TABASHILE
17. Program in Support of the Fight against Poverty (PAMI), Bonaventure NEGURA
18. Women in Mining Network (RFEM-RDC), FURAHA Lénine
19. Centre for Research on Natural Resources (CRRN), Etienne KIBANDJA
20. Network of Local Initiatives for Sustainable Development (REID), Neema BAENI
21. Assistance to Women and Children Victims of Violence (AFEVI), Brigitte BASHALI
22. Institution for the Point of view of the African Youth for Development (FPJAD), Etienne KAMBALE
23. Communal Action for Environment and Integrated Development (ACOPEDI), B. YALALA
24. Centre for Applied Studies on Peace and Human Rights (CEAPDHO), Aimé NDOOLE
25. Christian Women’s Network (RAFEC), Liliane CHAI
26. Women Awaken for Development (RFED), Louise NYOTA
27. Women Awaken for Integrated Development (RFEDI), Annie PENGELE
28. For the Provincial Coordination of the Civil Society of North-Kivu, Thomas d’Aquin LUANDA MUITI-President.