Over the past week, I came across several articles on the urgent need to ban “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I had heard about “conflict diamonds,” but “conflict minerals” was something new. As usual I started digging for more information.

I went over to Wikipedia for a short, quick history lesson on Congo. Then I read the Associated Press article [http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/articleALeqM5ibdwjaASDp9VscE0IRkvTkmWpungD979TTQO1] that was responsible for the buzz on conflict minerals. The fodder for the cannon was provided by a report titled “Can You Hear Congo Now?” by John Prendergast, founder of the Enough Project.[http://www.enoughproject.org]

The civilian war in D R Congo is the deadliest war since the World War II. Armed rebel groups, bandits, the Congolese army and the government are after the minerals that are found abundantly in the region. Unfortunately all the above mentioned groups have been using one horrible tool/weapon of war to gain control – Rape!

Rape has become a common weapon to gain and control territories, to break family and social structures, to induce shame and fear, to humiliate and establish hierarchy of power. The raping of the women of Congo is different. It is brutal.

The women are often gang raped. They get abducted and are used as sex slaves or “military wives” for a varied period of time. The women are so brutally raped that the flesh separating the bladder and rectum from the vagina is torn apart. This is because the gang rape is often followed by mutilation of their genitals. The mutilation is usually caused by inserting rusty guns, sticks, torches or bayonets. There have been instances where the perpetrators have inserted guns inside the vagina and fired bullets.

The women are so brutally raped and mutilated to the extent that they will not be able to have children again or become incontinent. The first person accounts of the survivors who managed to escape captivity are truly horrifying. Some of the women have been gang raped in front of their family members and have helplessly watched as their family members are killed in front of their eyes.

A surgeon in Panzi, who reconstructs tissue damaged by such mutilation, recalls one horrifying spectacle of a 12-year-old girl who had been savagely raped by five soldiers. They had stuffed a maize cob inside her.

However, for the survivors the ordeal does not end there. Their husbands do not accept them as they have been raped, which means that they have become impure. Their families tend to ostracize them. Most of they them do not have a family to turn too as they have been murdered. Too add to their problems, most of these survivors are either pregnant or have a new born to look after [and in dire need of medical help too].

Rape in D R Congo has become so common with the conflict that more civilians are committing rapes too, and the victims are often children [sometimes as young as 11-months]. The civilians, most of them have grown up watching someone from the family being raped and perpetrators have not yet been caught and brought to justice. This has emboldened them. These people think that they too can rape and be never caught. Hence, there has been an alarming increase in rapes committed by civilians. If at all a perpetrator is caught, he can walk away scot free by bribing; sometimes as little as $10.”

I came across an article that quoted a United Nations report:

“Congolese soldiers are frequently implicated in rapes, and the Congolese government, both feeble and uninterested, has done nothing to address the problem.”

There have been instances where the soldiers steal food given to the people by aid workers.

Now here is the connection between Rape and “conflict minerals.” Many feel that Rape is a part of a destabilization covering the theft of valuable minerals.

How do we stop it? Say “NO” to conflict minerals. These are Tin, Tungsten, and Tantalum—the “3 Ts”—and Gold. According to the report by the Enough Project, conflict minerals from Central Africa are moved around the world to countries in East Asia, where they are processed into valuable metals, and then onward into a wide range of electronics products. Consumers in the United States, Europe, and Asia are the ultimate end-users of these conflict minerals, inadvertently fueling the war through the purchases of these electronics products. This trail has been well documented by the United Nations and others, according to the report.

These minerals are commonly used in cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, video games, and digital cameras.

  • Tin is used in cell phones and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards.
  • Tantalum used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras and cell phones.
  • Tungsten is used to make one’s cell phone vibrate.
  • Gold is used in jewelry and as a component in electronics.
The Enough Project has written to 21 major electronic companies including Apple, Nokia, HP, and Nintendo; asking them to ensure that their products do not contain conflict minerals.

Let us make a pledge today. Say NO to Conflict Minerals. Stop RAPE.

Update: Here’s a video from CBS News on the conflict in Congo and its effect on women. Thanks Shilz for sharing it with us.