Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Democratic Republic of the Congo--Conflict Minerals

AFRICA/CONGO DR – New American law on “conflict minerals” addressed by President of the Congolese Bishops’ Conference

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) – “The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the American Law on Conflict Minerals.” This was the title of a press conference held by Bishop Nicholas Djomo, Bishop of Tshumbe and President of the Congolese Episcopal Conference, today, August 2, at the inter-diocsean center of Kinshasa.

After explaining the U.S. law, the debate discussed the consequences of the new provisions in both Congo and the United States and the contribution offered by the Congolese Church and the U.S. Church, with the goal of creating a law to guarantee that minerals sold on international markets do not fuel African wars.

In late July, the U.S. Congress passed a new law regulating financial transactions. In the dense text (2,300 pages), a provision has been inserted that requires U.S. companies to disclose what measures are being taken to ensure that their products (including mobile phones, laptop computers, and medical equipment) do not contain the so-called “conflict minerals” from Congo, minerals sold on the international market by guerrilla groups that for over 15 years have been sowing death and destruction in eastern DRC.

It is a system similar to the “Kimberly Process,” the system of diamond certification, intended to prevent international trade of gems from mines controlled by guerrilla groups in countries such as Sierra Leone and the DRC itself.

The main minerals traded illegally by guerrilla groups that operate on Congolese territory are tin, tungsten, and tantalum (which is derived from coltan, of which the DRC is the fifth largest producer), which are used in electronics and other products.

The new law requires American companies to submit an annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (who oversee the profits) which specify whether their products contain gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum from Congo and neighboring countries. If so, should describe the steps taken to trace the origin of minerals.

The law imposes no penalties for companies who do not report on actions taken to prevent the purchase of "conflict minerals,” but the information must be made public on the companies’ websites. Consumers can now choose whether to buy products that might contain minerals that finance the guerrilla groups that kill and rape civilians in eastern Congo.

Some experts have, however, stressed the difficulties in controlling the source of these minerals. Often, the illegally obtained minerals from the Congo are mixed with those extracted in other countries, to be sold on international markets. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 08/02/2010)

From Fides News Service, August 2, 2010.

AFRICA/CONGO DR – Bishops: “Law on minerals is a sign of solidarity from the US towards the Congolese people”

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) – The Congolese bishops have welcomed the American Congress’ adoption of a legislation to create an honest management in the marketing of minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is what was affirmed yesterday, August 2, by Bishop Nicholas Djomo of Tshumbe, President of the Congolese Bishops’ Conference, at a press conference convened to explain the Catholic Church’s stance on the new U.S. law that requires American companies to disclose what procedures they will take to ensure that their products do not contain the so-called “conflict minerals,” or minerals sold on the international market by guerrilla groups that have been sowing death and destruction in eastern DRC for 15 years (see Fides 03/08/2010).

“For 10 years, the Bishops’ Conference of Congo (Episcopal Conférence Nationale du Congo – CENCO) has been paying particular attention to the problem of exploitation of natural resources of the DRC,” said Bishop Djomo in a statement delivered to the press. “It is mainly from the analysis of the causes of the repeated conflicts that CENC has felt obliged to speak out, to highlight the links between the exploitation of natural resources, armed conflict, violations of human rights, the displacement of entire populations, the accentuation of poverty and misery, and environmental destruction.”

“We wish to thank the American government, the House of Representatives and the Senate, for having adopted the statutory provision relating to the exploitation of DRC’s natural resources, especially minerals that fuel conflicts in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes Region,” writes the President of the CENCO. “This is a clear sign of solidarity on the part of the American people with the Congolese people. We also thank all those who in one way or another supported the adoption of this law – in particular, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). We are also happy that our government has warmly welcomed the adoption of this law.”

To ensure that this legislation will help restore peace in the DRC, Bishop Djomo says more efforts are needed in strengthening the democratic process and good governance, strengthening of the legal economy, working for peace and reconciliation, creation of a legal framework to reinvigorate the judicial system, and encouragement of citizens to engage in public life. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 3/8/2010)

From Fides News Service, August 3, 2010

Statement by the President of CENCO (in French—PDF File)

AFRICA/CONGO DR – Catholic Relief Services and the American law on the certification of Congolese minerals
Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) – Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Caritas in the United States, welcomes the approval by the U.S. Congress of the Law 111-203, whose Article 1502 establishes standards to prevent the marketing of minerals which support Congolese armed groups. This is what was declared by Jennifer Poidatz, representative of CRS in the Democratic Republic of Congo, during a news conference organized by the Congolese Bishops’ Conference in Kinshasa to explain the position of the Church in Congo and the U.S. on the new law, which was signed by President Obama on July 21 (see Fides August 2-3, 2010).

The representative of the CRS explained the main points of Article 1502 of Law 111-203, for whose approval the American Catholic institution has been fighting. The U.S. government, in collaboration with USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), must establish within six months a strategy for understanding the links among human rights violations, armed groups, and the extraction of minerals associated with conflicts and their commercial exploitation.

CRS hopes that “this strategy will reinforce the cooperation between the governments of the DRC, the U.S., and other actors, neighboring states, the international community, and the UN Panel on Congo.” This collaboration, says the representative of the CRS, must lead to a number of objectives: to create a system to monitor and stop commercial activities that finance armed groups acting in the DRC, help to strengthen the system of government and economic institutions to improve transparency on the exploitation of minerals, and promote local and regional development.

The U.S. government should also draw up a plan to help companies work in compliance with the law by publishing, by the State Department, a “Charter of minerals associated with conflicts,” which will be updated every six months. U.S. firms that are registered with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) must disclose whether they use minerals that are naturally present in conflict areas of the DRC or in neighboring countries. In this case, they should send the SEC a report on the measures they implemented to establish the origin and traceability of these minerals, an independent review of this report, and a description of components that contain minerals associated with conflicts in the country, and, if possible, the mine of origin of mineral.

Lastly, the “DRC Conflict Free” label will be introduced, to certify products that do not use mineral whose proceeds fund the Congolese armed groups. (L.M.)

From Fides News Service, August 4, 2010

Statement by Jennifer Poidatzon Conflict Minerals in DRC (in French—PDF File)