Monday, November 03, 2008

Congo: what is the war REALLY about? Ethnicity? Or the Congo's immense resources?

United Nations aid convoy rolled past rebel lines, top European, US, and UN envoys continue to discuss how best to prevent the latest crisis from spiraling out of control. 

But many attempts to end Congo's conflict have failed, in part because wars that appear to be all about ethnicity are also about business. Hutu rebels claim to be taking refuge from a vengeful Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who blames them for the 1994 genocide of more than 800,000 Tutsis. But the rebels have built a militia by controlling the trade in tin, tungsten, and coltan. 

The rebel army of Gen. Laurent Nkunda, which has now almost encircled the city of Goma, claims to be protecting his ethnic Tutsis, but he operates in areas rich in tin.


Given its immense natural resources, the Congo should be one of the richest countries on earth, with an estimated $300 billion worth of timber, gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper, tin, and coltan. Nearly 80 percent of the world's known reserves of coltan – a key metal used in cellphones and video games – come from Congo. Yet instead of a blessing, Congo's riches have become a bane. 

The crisis – funded by the world's insatiable need for mineral resources – is not an easy conundrum to solve. US sanctions forbid high-tech companies from buying Congolese coltan, for instance, but sanctions don't affect coltan purchased in neighboring Rwanda. Rwanda is not a coltan-producing country, so its coltan mainly comes from Congo, illegally. Full story...

See also:

  1. Children of Congo: From War to Witches, a region gone mad...
  2. The Coltan War
  3. Next time you want to buy some gold, you might want to look at this first...

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