International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Pillage: US Legislation on Congo’s Conflict Minerals Delayed

A recent VOA news article explains why US legislation on Congo’s conflict minerals has been delayed. An excerpt:

“Any delay or phase-in of the law would seriously undermine the aim of the law which is to create greater transparency and accountability over the trade in conflict minerals and therefore help reduce the violence that is being driven by these minerals,” said Gilfillan (Global Witness)

The aim of the law is to force thousands of companies that report to the Securities and Exchange Commission and obtain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and nine neighboring countries to reveal the sources of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold they use….”

Interestingly, the quotes at the end of the article reveal disagreements over whether the conflict is inherently driven by greed or politics.

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6 responses to “Pillage: US Legislation on Congo’s Conflict Minerals Delayed

  1. chrisumass April 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    The arguement made at the end of the article is a noble one identifying that the government of DRC needs to be improved in order to solve the problem. However conflict resources are sold to companies that require them, not because the government is in poor shape. The need of electrical companies and phone companies on the DRCs minerals is heavy. Due to this they won’t back down from purchasing conflict resources and are less likely to enforce a policy that would lessen their supplie of vital metals. The crisis should be attended to but I think going after the exports of conflict resources is an effective way of cutting the head off the snake. If the money flowing to criminals stops then they won’t be able to fund their operations.

  2. mara.m April 29, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I think it is really interesting that at the end of the article, a Congolese scholar stated that he believed the U.S. attention to help Congo is misguided. It was said in class that US legislation and UN sanctions will not necessarily help, and it was mentioned that conflict resolution has to come from the Congolese. I think this is mainly true, and I say “mainly” because I believe that with the Congo’s complicated past with not only foreign states intervening with conflicts and pillaging resources, it also has rebel groups fighting for resources as well, it would need the international community’s aid in reforming the government. However the aid would have to be temporary, with a transition period to allow the Congolese to firmly reform in order to prosecute the war crimes and human rights violations that have been committed over the years. The Congolese government must provide its own conflict resolution (to some extent, with some help of the international community) in order to expel foreign pillagers, and also come to terms with rebel groups in order to deter further pillaging of resources. The pillaging of resources will continuously allow atrocities to happen, and with the international demand of such lucrative resources thus providing a market, corporations and individuals profiting will never stop (especially since they are making billions of dollars) which is why the conflict resolution must come from within the Congo.

  3. Alana Tiemessen April 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Here’s a really interesting blog post, from “Texas in Africa,” on the “unintended consequences of Congo advocacy.” It questions the overdrawn assumptions about the links between minerals and the violence in the Congo, and how this rather simplistic narrative hasn’t helped in the right ways.
    http://texasinafrica.blogspot.com/2011/04/unintended-consequences-of-congo.html

  4. julespc April 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I am a firm believer that transparency is beneficial for educational purposes and for constraining power, preventing illegal and ill advised decisions made by actors such as corporations. The fact that the law has been delayed after it was passed and signed, is a testament to the power that corporations and business have over legislative matters. Corporate interests have become integrated into the skeleton of American politics. The article does not say why the bill has not been implemented yet, but my guess is that negotiations over how to make the bill more cost-benefit effective for corporations is taking place behind the scenes. It is always difficult to measure the power that corporations and their lobbying effect has on legislation but it is evident that transparency is detriment to corporate interests. I believe that this law is very important for the future of holding corporations accountable for how they get resources and where these resources (mineral, e. gold) come from. The Congo has suffered through constant violence since their independence, and this bill could help construct a better future for the country, by eliminating some of the illegal and oppressive ways that conflict minerals are being sold. If corporations are held accountable for getting resources from illegal channels, than consequently these illegal channels will lose money and legitimacy.

  5. taramariekelly May 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I agree that the delay in US legislation does prevent the goal of transparency and accountability especially on Congo’s conflict on minerals. It is important for our legal system and its legitimacy that the laws are not delayed. The law has not been implemented yet, and the U.S representative of National Associations Manufacturers says less rigorous demands might help the process. This is a great example of the power of corporations in politics. It demonstrates how nervous our government is to upset the powerful corporations. This legislation is a great way for the U.S to help in the Congo, but if we do not implement the law then I do not see the point. I also believe that the solution to the conflict must come from within the Congolese government. The beginning minerals are far from the manufacturers, and I think it would be in the Congolese governments benefit to begin regulating for the first source. I think that while demanding manufacturers to know their sources from minerals is beneficial, any further regulation is undermining the Congolese government and not helping to legitimize or strengthen their government.

    • ehsaunde May 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      I agree with the points made by Tara: lobbying is a disease in our society and it often affects legislation negatively in order to pursue corporate interests.
      Rick Gross makes a very defensive statement in the article about how hard it would be to find out the origins of his materials. I really disagree that it would be an impossible process, as he makes it seem. Business owners simply do not want to go through the trouble (both physical and financial) of finding out where products are originating from. Although I agree that this would be time-consuming and probably costly, those factors should not deter US legislation.
      Another point that was made in the article was that the problem is not purely external. The lack of adequate legislation and responsible government feed into the problem. Questions I have are these: How will American law affect the society in the DRC? Aren’t these ‘conflict minerals’ the main export? If we put rules on businesses that buy from the Congo will we be hurting the people working to extract minerals? Basically, are conflict minerals better than no minerals from Africa at all?
      I understand that the problem is that these minerals are being stolen by neighboring countries and passed off as their own but I feel like putting restrictions on US companies will just lead them to finding other sources instead of fixing the problem.

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