By Garrett Moore | February 13, 2015
Murder, rape, and mass displacement continue in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to deadliest conflict since World War II. However, this classic narrative of the Heart of Darkness can improve.
A recent op-ed feud between Lauren Wolfe, John Prendergast, and Sasha Lezhnev neglects the space Dodd-Frank can offer Congolese to solve the underlying causes of the Congo crisis. The international community must commit to a dynamic implementation of Dodd-Frank Section 1502 paired with renewed efforts for sustainable peace and development in Congo. Conflict-free sourcing initiatives need to shift with local, national, and regional changes and be complimented by economic considerations and interventions, democratic improvements, and efforts to further achievements in peace.
Dodd-Frank Section 1502 is slowly achieving its initial intent: to increase international attention on the long-forgotten conflicts in eastern Congo, challenge funding sources to armed groups perpetuating violence, progress corporate accountability, and eventually reform western sourcing policies and practices. These improvements ease efforts to address some underlying causes of the crisis in Congo. These include political instability, conflicts over land, ethnicity, nationality, and power, and a lack of political will to improve the situation in the east.
Fewer Congolese mines are producing the ‘conflict minerals’ (namely tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, “3TG”) that have bankrolled armed groups and those who supported them over the past fifteen years, from Ugandan military leaders to Rwandan businessmen. The United Nations Group of Experts, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other international observers found that Rwanda supported the brutal Mouvement du 23-Mars (M23). However, the M23 collapsed in November 2013 following strong diplomatic pressure on Rwandan leadership, joint UN and Congolese military (FARDC) offenses, and economic strain on Rwandan backers of the Congolese rebellion.
Further implementation of Dodd-Frank Section 1502 must adjust to the dynamics of Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. For example, x-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology should be researched to strengthen the “bag and tag” method of mineral accounting and tracking, potentially thwarting efforts to mislabel mineral supplies or launder them with those from Asia, Australia, and South America.
Dodd-Frank must be complimented by improved economic and employment opportunities in eastern Congo. Mineral prices have increased for miners at the limited conflict-free projects; however, additional conflict-free mines will offer more competitive buying prices for miners in the legitimate mineral trade. Further, international donors must increase their support for livelihood projects to support mining communities, especially those that have lost mining employment since 2011.
Democratic improvements can strengthen the implementation of Dodd-Frank Section 1502 and stability across Congo. Free and fair national, provincial, and local elections must be held according to a public timetable, without conflicting with the Constitution’s two-term limit for the President. Recent news is encouraging. Divisions were exposed within President Kabila’s coalition, and there are reports from civil society leaders that some of Kabila’s ministers are encouraging him to step down at the end of his second term. Stronger democracy and political stability can decrease violence against protests and further armed rebellions in the east.
Lastly, Dodd-Frank Section 1502 will only fulfill its potential if rebels are permanently disarmed, demobilized, and reintegrated into society, and justice is obtained for victims of mass atrocity. Successful defection programs such as those used against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central African Republic and northeastern Congo should be explored for wider application in eastern Congo. Former rebels and their families must be attended to, providing motivation not to return to fight. Criminal proceedings must be brought against the worst offenders of crimes against humanity such as mass rape and those who had command responsibility over the perpetrators. Mixed courts should be explored for immediate, fair, and representative justice.
Implementation of Dodd-Frank Section 1502 must respond to fluctuations in security, economics, and politics of eastern Congo and the wider Great Lakes Region. The United States policy can reach its full potential if partnered with key reforms for wider peace and development. Dodd-Frank can strengthen Congolese solutions to the root causes of the crisis in the east – the only solutions that will have a permanent, positive impact in Congo.
Garrett Moore is Co-Founder of the policy and activism organization Boston for Congo and based at Boston University. He can be reached at gmoore(at)bu.edu.