Globalized economy and rape in the DRC



 Indications that rape may well be connected to the exploitation of mines producing minerals used for digital technology are on the increase

Each one of us can make a difference by questioning the origin of the materials and asking for accountability from our suppliers

FemAid with Women in War is launching an awareness campaign that would lead to:

- An international one-day strike of mobile phones

- This day would host debates on the ethics of mining and human rights abuses everywhere in the developing world.

- Pressure would be exerted by all groups joining this effort to put pressure on manufacturers.

- A sticker with Violence-Free technology would be made mandatory by all manufacturers who agree to an ethical use of minerals

- Any funds will go toward financing self-defense classes for girls in East DRC


In order

- We are working on a video-clip for You-Tube and we have set up a page on Facebook


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- We need your help, partner with us!

Consumers' behaviour can make a difference- think of how child labout decreased after public outcry concerning the manufacturing of sports articles in India, Pakistan and Bangla-Desh.

It's up to us to refuse digital technology manufactured through human rights abuse

For more information Contact FemAid



Human rights abuses linked to the mining of conflict minerals are not a revelation. The US and the EU are attempting to curb these but in ways that are less than efficient and border hypocrisy. Here are two examples, first the amendment Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act in the US in late Aufgust and the British governement's latest propositions.


On August 22nd last the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed  the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act,  whereby public companies had to disclose the origin of their conflict minerals adjoining from the DRC or an adjoining country. These include Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia  . Expanding on the original law passed in 2010 and known in the DRC as the ‘Loi Obama’, it requires companies to make measures of ‘due diligence’ and monitor every step of the transactions  by  independent firms to ensure transparency, provenance and accountability

Conflict minerals comprise the 3Ts(tin, tantalite and tungsten)   as well as gold, used mainly in the electronics industry that is to say our daily electronic equipment, in our much beloved cell phones especially, lap-tops, MP3s and digital cameras. It requires all public companies trading in these commodities to make sure that their business does not profit in anyway the warlords engaged in the region, in particular in the eastern provinces of the DRC. This law came about as the result  from pressure groups in particular Human Rights Watch and, the Enough project and Global Witness

Since the passing of the law in 2010, all 29 companies officially registered trading houses have officially ceased exporting minerals without taking due diligence measures. The three who have failed to do so are Chinese-owned businesses who are not subject to these laws

The law has been criticized as placing the onus on the companies and removing responsibility from the Congolese government, henceforth cast as the only reliable authority, even though   groups linked to the Congolese army ( FARDC) have been particularly active in the private control of mines in which corrupt government officials have played an extremely significant part. Further criticism of the law stresses the virtual embargo that has followed, the gradual closing down of mines production and the loss of work for countless Congolese workmen and local communities. Nevertheless there is evidence to show that smuggling has increased and that minerals have been moved from the mines of origin to other countries: this is only an increase of an established pattern which has fuelled guerilla wars in the region for decades: the 3Ts, so essential for electronics from RDC have been smuggled out to Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi on their way to China, countries that will be now under greater scrutiny since the SCI ruling
How much of the 3Ts ais produced in the DRC is subject to debate. What seems certain is that 1) the two Kivu provinces may hold the greatest reserves on the continent 2) Rwanda which has relatively few mines to speak of, is one the region’s main exporter, exports having gone up since the application of the Dodd-Frank law. Absence of labelling has become a prominent feature in this business, all the more that foreign-implanted companies sell the minerals to multinationals; employing  circumtuous routes to Asia. where the components are made up. Furthermore, the absence of any regulating with the Chinese firms increasingly present in the region haa favoured such uncontrolled transactions.

Whilst all these points need to be explained more thoroughly, what is certain is that amongst the human rights abuses reported by different institutions, rape was a major cause for such drastic legislation and continues, unabated.

Already in August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed out the link between armed conflict, sexual violence, and minerals when she visited eastern Congo, arguing that the world needs to do more “to prevent the mineral wealth from the DRC ending up in the hands of those who fund the violence.”[1].

Yet what seems extraordinary is that in much of the reports and the work done on rape and rape prevention, this economic background is hardly ever referred to. Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence in conflict famously called the DRC “the rape capital of the world” Statistics indeed are horrific and report and increase of gang raping (over 60% according to the Oxfam report of 2010, of which 56% happen in the home) [2]

Typically of reports of this kind, Oxfam  calls on the Congolese government  and the international community to “Increase provision of medical care for survivors of sexual, violence, Ensure that the protection provided by the UN peacekeepers and Congolese security services is tailored to local realities.  Reform the Congolese security sector and justice system”

Lilewise William Hague’s commission to “renew the British Government’s commitment to tackling sexual violence in armed conflict” and to set up a team of experts  including “skills of doctors, lawyers, police, psychologists, forensic specialists and experts in the care and protection of victims and witnesses”.

All well and fine, one can only be in agreement with such propositions. The experts that are significantly absent from this  wunder team are specialists in economics and global trade, in brief specialists about the actual terrain where such abuse takes place.These recommendations  do not take into consideration deeper reasons behind these. The loose implication is that war (as a an unexplained phenomenon) and  the archetypal villains known as warlords are the cause- as everywhere else where such illegal power prevails. Gender stereotypes prevail (“bad” male perpetrators, women victims), possibly racist implications may well be present as the main criticisms come from white, institutions from ex-colonial powers. Conventional humanitarian aid agencies fail to take into consideration the following:

 1) behind the warlords’activities lies a complex political and economic situation where the global market interests are at stake (including those of the countries involved in  international aid policies).

2) More often than not, companies do not have private armies and depend on local militias to access mines and even organize their exploitation.

3) Mass rape has increasingly turned into a form of terror exercised systematically in zones where the mines are present. To quote Women Rights militant from Bukavu, Venantie Bisimwa “Rape is the most economical form of violence against a community: families are instantaneously destroyed”

4) More than just acute discrimination against women is at stake with the increasing numbers of boys in the count of victims. Sometimes women are incriminated and even sentenced during trials of noted warlords, Rather in the Rwandan massacres where there were a number of women amongst the perpetrators..

This, in the DRC, was the case of the notorious Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga whose wife was also sentenced to jail. The fact that Gédéon, as he is locally known, managed to break out of the Kasapa prison in Lubumbashi, in September 2011,with 967 other inmates goes a long way in demonstrating the lack of weight court decisions have in this part of the world. he has since returned to the activities that had originally landed him with a death sentence that was never carried out.

 Yet industry is trying to regulate this trade, albeit modestly.  The unfortunately underfunded ITSCI (International Tin Supply Chain Initiative) has been working on transparency withh OCDE rulings and,  according to the most recent “Enough” report[3], a number of companies have already started to take measures limiting the use of conflict minerals well aware of the consequences of unregulated mining.  

Progress is certainly slow, loopholes remain gigantic and the bureaucracy cumbersome. Nevertheless it is a step in the right direction. This begs the following question. Why are all these aid agencies reluctant to work with the institutions that are trying so hard to regulate mining ?

It is true that the likes of WHO et al are domiciliated in Switzerland just like Glencore the notoriously secretive commodities company, whose activities are regularly called into question. Likewise  for AngloGold Ashati Ltd, the mining company listed on stock exchanges of NY, Johannesburg, Accra, London, Australia where international aid agencies have major offices.  That would be too easy.

Maybe the problem is the general refusal of political commitment on the behalf of aid agencies worldwide. Aid often appears as a partner of war- for instance in Afghanistan. Whilst US army and allies have been busy bombing local populations and fighting counter-insurgency, aid has been delivered- often with little or no effectiveness- for instance infant and maternal mortality continue to be just about the highest in the world, just after Niger which does not enjoy even the tiniest fraction of the aid sent to Afghanistan. UN agencies purportedly fight for women’s rights in Kabul whilst the US has been steadily negotiating ith the Taliban.
In Africa, the governments that are funding agencies to “help”  rape situation in the RDC are also the ones that generally have been supporting the totally irresponsible Congolese governments from Mobutu (included) onwards. Whilst UNHCR funds refugee camps in east Africa, the world supports the wars that fuel the wars leading to the establishment of the self-same camps.

It is time to work through such cynical realpolitik. If even the much blighted industrial world is forging the tools to fight against human rights abuses within world economy, it is time that aid agencies worked conjunctly in approaching the problem in a holistic way. The first step would be in mapping out mines- which is already being done by the larger consortiums- and simultaneously mass rapes they seeing how and where they coincide. This project, which is being mapped out by the authors of this article, needs to be undertaken from the grassroots upwards, in collaboration with local communities, human rights groups and universities.  Not just rape in DRC is at stake but the whole approach to truly efficient aid.

[1] "http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/mine-mobile-phone?page=7" \l "_ednref3"

[2] http://www.oxfam.org/fr/pressroom/pressrelease/2010-04-15/new-report-shows-shocking-pattern-rape-eastern-congo)

[3]Taking conflict out of consumer gadgets.  www.enoughproject.org/.../CorporateRankings20, August 2012.


For further information Contact FemAid

See article by Carol Mann and Alphonse Maindo published on ''Now Africa'' de septembre 2012:

Sexual Violence in the DRC: What Good is the Dodd-Frank Act?

Also the article published in Egalité , September 25th 2012: Economie mondialisée et viol en RDC

Also the article published in Sisyphe, Septembre 26th 2012: Du viol en RDC à nos téléphones portables- La violence faite aux femmes, instrument de l'économie mondialisée

Further thoughts on transparency

On October 11th, the British government  announced transparency measures regarding the trade of imported natural resources, including gas and petrol. Companies will be required to publish payments to any government of more than €80,000 . This is meant to inform the local populations of the crimes and misdemeanours of their respective governments when they handle the selling-off of their precious resources. As if the people of Afghanistan, Russia, Nigeria, DRC, Azerbaidjan etc etc did n’t know that the money was being pocketed directly with no benefit to themselves.
How naïve does the Liberal democrat leader, Nicolas Clegg think the public is? Surely everyone is aware that Nicolas Putin, Joseph Kabila or Hamid Karzai’s names are not on the cheques but that backhanders are filtered all along the food chain from well or mine to multinational company somewhere in the West.
Furthermore, one may wonder how such measures are to be efficient in countries where government is weak to non-existent, corruption rife , smuggling the main form of export and the goods are conflict minerals. This is the case of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo),  which holds the main reserves of minerals used for digital technology today, as in smartphones Ipads, GPS and drones, to cite just a few.  Certainly IBM, Motorola, Samsung et al do not mine in their own name, but go through intermediary companies notorious for the mystery they shroud themselves in- (eg Glencore in Katanga) . But this does not absolve any of the companies from responsibility of the heinous human rights abuses, including mass rape, that have become part and parcel of mining the resources used in digital technology.

So how on earth does this new supposedly tough legislation go about tracing backhanders which have been processed by several intervening companies (inside the Congo but also neighbouring Rwanda,Uganda, Burundi  amongst others, before getting to Asia, then Europe and the US) which may well unofficially include some corrupt Congolese politicians whilst benefitting only minimally to the government in Kinshasa. As for the Congolese public, they are well aware of what is going on as they have been going through the worst wars and massacres since World War II, largely because of the appropriation of these priceless mineral resources

 But up and and coming is the mining situation in Afghanistan which will become acute once the last NATO troops leave in 2014. The one legacy that is being prepared is who gets what in terms of natural resources. Never mind universal education,  women’s basic rights, any measure is purely cosmetic- as becomes obvious from what we see on a daily basis in Afghanistan. Copper, oil, gold, lithium, iron ore and much more  are hijacked by local warlords (including the supposedly Puritan Taliban). The mining law designed to attract foreign investments was rejected in summer, in order to keep the business at home-thereby paving the way for a civil war . Either way, whether these warlords try and keep the benefits for themselves or negotiate as they will have to with Western multinationals, the already impoverished Afghan population will lose out, as usual. Unless Afghan public opinion begins to react now....And there are enough angry young Afghans, well aware of what is going on to start clamouring for national ownership of their resources!

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