US must act on Congo’s ‘blood minerals’

Saturday January 10 2009

The eastern Congolese delegation at the third

The eastern Congolese delegation at the third round of peace talks between the Congolese government and eastern Congolese rebel group of Gen Laurent Nkunda at the UN headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi on January 7. Photo/ANTHONY NJUGUNA 

By ZACHARY OCHIENG

The conflict in eastern Congo, which has displaced more than 250,000 civilians, has worsened the already existing humanitarian crisis.

Whereas a high-level consultative meeting on October 31 last year — involving representatives from the African Union, UN agencies, the United States, South Africa, France, the UK, Sweden and Belgium — sought, among other goals, to forestall this humanitarian disaster, not much has been achieved.

The clash between pro-government forces and rebel militias, mainly the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), was precipitated by a host of factors, including continued concerns about the influence of Hutu extremists in the region, weak governance and competition for access to the region’s vast mineral wealth.

In response to the unfolding crisis, the United Nations recently approved 3,000 additional troops to join its mission in the DR Congo (Monuc) for a total of 20,000 peacekeepers, and humanitarian agencies, such as the World Food Programme and the UN High Commission for Refugees , have provided upwards of 10,000 metric tonnes of food and equipped thousands with essentials such as blankets and cooking stoves.

However, the US Institute of Peace argues in a peace briefing that efforts to craft sustainable solutions to the Congo crisis must go beyond short-term initiatives to halt fighting and provide temporary relief to focus on providing human security for all Congolese.

This means that every citizen must be guaranteed safety in communities that are free from fear and want.

Development, law and order, and military goals must be pursued in tandem if a lasting solution is to be found.

The briefing, “Disaster in the DRC: Responding to the Humanitarian Crisis in North Kivu,” focuses on the human security implications of resurgent violence that left hundreds dead, thousands displaced and millions destitute in North Kivu province.

In discussing the efficacy of ongoing humanitarian efforts, Dr Faida Mitifu, the DR Congo ambassador to the US, advocates international support to bring stability to the country by addressing impunity and ensuring that the perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes.

The US leadership is also needed to implement an international verification scheme that covers the trade of all mineral exports from Congo — similar to the Kimberly Process, established in 2003 to deter trade in “blood diamonds.”

Since much of the conflict in the eastern DR Congo revolves around the demand for Congo’s natural resources, a mi