- A report released today by the multi-donor Communities and Small Scale Mining initiative, has challenged recent suggestions that mineral trading in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the main cause of the ongoing conflict.
Rather, the primary reason for insecurity in the Eastern DRC is the inability of the Congolese state to control the monopoly of violence and protect its citizens, the report said, adding that the widely reported military predation on the minerals trade is another symptom of insecurity and thus intervening in the trade is not enough to solve the crisis.
The report, researched and written by Harrison Mitchell and Nicholas Garrett of London-based specialist consultancy Resource Consulting Services urges policy makers to refocus on consolidating the security sector to solve issues of insecurity in Eastern DRC.
It further suggests that donors, the private sector and development NGOs should engage with, formalise and empower the minerals trade, which forms the main foreign exchange earner for Eastern DRC and basis for the livelihood of over one million people.
The researchers also said the failure of the Congolese state to control the security sector has resulted in the presence of a number of armed groups, which, together with the Congolese national army (FARDC) act with impunity and cause high levels of violence, including sexual violence, and derive benefits from various parts of the economy, including the mineral trade.
“The slow progress of a joint MONUC-FARDC operation against the FDLR in the second quarter of 2009 and continuing human rights abuses have increased the urgency with which the international community must act to end the conflict in Eastern DRC,” said the authors.
Though the report also acknowledges deep-seated problems with the minerals trade, it refutes that the popular notion that issues of insecurity are best solved by the application of economic sticks, such as targeted sanctions and due diligence mechanisms.
It noted that the most significant of such measures is suggested legislation by the US Senate to place a due diligence requirement on electronics companies that source tin and other metals from Eastern DRC. The report examines the likely outcomes of these control measures in the context of Eastern DRC and suggests that, while they may add to the overall professionalisation of the minerals trade, they will fail to solve the issue of insecurity in the region.
The authors suggest the consolidation of the security sector must be tackled head on and complemented by a separate but complementary and sustained strategy to formalise and professionalise Eastern DRC’s mining sector.
They stated that in order to make this strategy sustainable, it must include investment into the development and improvement of Congolese institutions, including the establishment of accountability mechanisms and training. This combination of communicating short-term and longer-term engagement strategies will reduce military gain and allow the trade to contribute more positively to domestic and regional economic growth, they said.
Harrison Mitchell said “Interventions in the economic domain, such as due diligence measures in the mineral trade, will not in themselves solve the issue of insecurity in the Eastern DRC. Instead actors should focus on consolidating the security sector and commit to long term development of Eastern DRC’s mining sector.”
Nicholas Garrett on his part said, “Excessive one-sided advocacy around ‘conflict minerals’ is paradoxically increasingly standing in the way of conflict resolution attempts. It diverts policy makers’ attention away from the single most important need to consolidate the security sector and it undermines efforts to engage responsible private actors and development NGOs in immediate minerals trade reform measures. The risk of negative press exposure is increasingly too high for these actors, who would be crucial to successful engagement, reform and professionalization of the minerals sector.”
Professor James Putzel, Director of the CSRC said “This report demonstrates that the international community - both governments and NGOs - is involved in misguided efforts to curb violence in the Eastern DRC through curbing trade in minerals, which will only serve to wreck the livelihoods of poor people. Instead, aid to the Kinshasa government should be made conditional on it making a serious new effort to establish disciplined, effective and accountable security forces. Secondly, donors need to increase assistance directly to the improvement of agricultural production and the diversification of productive activity to create alternative possibilities for wealth creation and job creation, if ordinary people are to become less dependent on regional violence brokers”.
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