Friday, February 25, 2011

Murder and Rape in the Congo

I am writing this blog on my computer. It’s electronics contain Coltan a rare mineral found mainly in Australia and in the Congo in Africa. The Congo has been devastated by civil wars between militias that finance their weapons by selling Coltan, gold and diamonds. These wars have taken the life of 7 million people. Many, many women have been gang raped by different gangs of soldiers.

Clearly the producers and consumers -- you and I -- bear some responsibility for the incredible brutality of these militia wars and the unspeakable pain and suffering they produce day in day out.

Manufacturers of cell phones and computers protest their innocence by demanding of their suppliers a certification that the Coltan they sell is not tainted by civil war and mass rape. But that is, of course, the easy way out. Apple may buy Australian Coltan but as long as the mineral is used in electronic devices there will be enough demand for someone to buy it from the militias who extorted it from the African miners.

At the moment there do not appear to be any cell phones or computers that do not use this mineral.

As if that were not bad enough, we are, all of us,involve in many other wars for other natural resources. The reasons for going to war in Iraq are still hazy but oil seems to play an important part in it. So does oil play an important part in our support for authoritarian governments in Saudi Arabia or in Egypt.

The massacre in the Congo is a stark reminder of the extent to which the affluent West stokes the fire of oppression, of the brutalization of women, of the premature deaths of children.

In the end, the affluent West is you and me. But it is not you and me as single individuals but as participants in a global capitalist system that is enormously productive in consumer goods and conveniences, and equally productive in rape and murder in other countries.