Opinion: US policy on Congo conflict minerals well-intentioned, but misguided
An NGO worker in Congo says of the Dodd-Frank legislation: 'The motivation behind the law is very good – to impose transparency. But the implementation has been the problem.'
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It is true that there is no official embargo on the Congo today, and that the Dodd-Frank law did not call for such an embargo. But the truth is that as soon as the Conglese export ban was lifted, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) [an electronics industry body] in the United States imposed a de facto embargo. Traders here only had time to sell their stock and then everything stopped again! Now most of the minerals seem to leak out through smuggling. It is the Chinese who are still buying officially, and we think that the rest of the stuff smuggled out might also be going to China.Skip to next paragraph
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There has been speculation that Rwanda has been laundering Congolese minerals and then selling them as their own.
That's difficult to know. Rwanda has also been hit hard by Dodd-Frank, as well. It is true that there is a lot of cassiterite smuggled into Rwanda. I am sure there are parallel structures in Rwanda, a black market. On the other hand, I think there are intensifying efforts to be more transparent – for example, they turned back Chinese trying to export minerals through Rwanda.
What do you think about the ITRI and BGR initiatives
We need a big discussion on the way forward. We need a bunch of things, not just tracing and tagging. We need to sit together to figure out. There are a lot of initiatives that have been proposed, but this has added to the confusion. We need one approach. The centres de négoce and tagging are not enough. Tagging is good – but you can end up tagging dirty minerals, as well! There is a whole bunch of work to do. Let's not confine ourselves to tagging.
What else can be done, then?
What we are trying to is to support local communities to supervise their own mines at a grassroots level. We will try to give them a mechanism to overview the process – to see if soldiers are taxing the minerals. We want to do this as civil society and then make reports that will we publish that will help keep mines clean. This, we hope, will happen in synergy with our Congolese and foreign partners. In general, we feel that these initiatives haven't taken into consideration the contributions of local organization. But we are discussing with them now.
What about BGR?
BGR work on a larger scale, with state for training experts. They associate civil society, but they are very bureaucratic. We share a lot of information, but we can feel the competition between ITRI, PACT, ICGLR – this competition is not good.
What about the advocacy done by ENOUGH in the US?
Unfortunately I think this is the opposite of what we want – ENOUGH has hardened its tone. They only show the negative side of artisanal mining here. This one-sidedness of their advocacy has had negative side-effects. No, we know we can't stop Dodd Frank, but we need to be aware of these negative consequences – we are not very happy with Global Witness or ENOUGH, but we feel they are very influential, and we are ready to work with them. On the other hand, we are also afraid of our government and what they are doing.
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