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Conflict minerals in DRC: An interview with Ferdinand Muhigirwa, SJ

15 June 2013

Professor Ferdinand Muhigirwa , SJ was interviewed by Ecojesuit on conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Professor Muhigirwa is currently the Managing Director of the Arrupe Research and Training Center in Lubumbashi, DRC.

Can you explain to us what is meant by “conflict minerals”?

“Conflict minerals” is an expression that comes out of the Dodd-Frank (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection) Act, a US law passed on July 1, 2010. In Section 1502, you get this expression “conflict mineral” — meaning that there are minerals like gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten that are being taken out mainly by rebel groups out of conflict, violence, human rights abuses, and sex-based violence.

What is the present situation in RDC (République démocratique du Congo) regarding conflict minerals?

For the moment the situation is not good because since the Dodd-Frank Act was passed, the regulations came out one year and a half later and the implementation is still problematic.  That means you have around 40 armed groups that are operating in the East of Congo, mainly in the North Kivu and the South Kivu, and they are taking out those minerals. And it’s a way for them to be financed by the exploitation of those minerals and the Dodd-Frank Act is meant to stop, to cut the financing of the armed groups.

Could you briefly explain the implications of this legislation?

For me, the implications of the Dodd-Frank Act will be meaningful because first, US mining companies are required to prove the source or the origin of the minerals they are taking out. These minerals, such as gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum, should be free from conflict. The second is that the US Securities and Exchange Commission is asking the financial reports of US mining companies that will declare how much kilos or tonnes of minerals are taken out of DRC. They have to do this report to gain a kind of financial transparency. And as I said earlier, I think this will mean cutting the source of financing to the rebels, contributing to efforts in peace, security, and stability in the East of Congo.

What do you think could be the contribution of the European Union (EU)?

The contribution of the EU on this issue I think will be great, under certain conditions. I think the first one is that when the head of States of Africa belonging to the Conférence Internationale sur la Région des Grands Lacs (CIRGL) (or International Conference of the Great Lakes Region) met in December 2010, the Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques (OCDE) (or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) due diligence was presented.  The head of State decided and made the recommendation that the OCDE due diligence should be incorporated into the six mechanisms of the CIRGL.  This was done already, so this is an initiative taken at the level of harmonizing of the instruments or mechanisms. I think also the EU can help financially to see the process of certification that’s going on in the Great Lakes Region and that would be very helpful.

I think the EU somehow can help implement the framework and also Resolution 2098 (2013) from the UN Security Council so that you have peace and stability and the EU legislation will really be functional or operational.

What could be the signs of hope that you find in this struggle, thinking about the younger generation?

The first one is the demographic population of the youth who constitute 60% of the population and that is already a sign of hope. But I still think that we also have to build up the capacity of the youth through education and through training. This will help them to be more aware of their civic, social, and economic rights so that in the future they can really take up responsibility and build a better future in DRC.

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