Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 16:03 p.m. DST, 16 August 2013
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO − The mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has a plethora of side effects for the country that destroy the standard of living and overall wellbeing of the country. The most unbearable one is the way that the mining industry spurs violence and civil war within the country. Because rebel groups are continually fighting over control of the mines and natural resources, turmoil and chaos are incessantly being reproduced.
This system has gone on for decades in the DRC which has unfortunately made it an expected way of life where vast regions are based around a “war economy.” This is a horrifying concept as it means Congolese citizens are actually dependent on the illegal and informal economy based around the exploitation of natural resources and arms trafficking, instead of moving towards a formal market economy based on peace and respect of property.
When the illegal economy becomes a way of life, the actors involved totally “lose interest in peace” because they have no concept of how to make a living without it. Besides this being dangerous in itself, it is also unsustainable, as eventually these natural resources will run out and those associated with the mines will have no other skills to make a living off of.
With this lack of desire for peace, mass killings have been all too frequent when it comes to fighting over control of mining areas. Rebel groups have used deliberate killings and massacres as a tool of war to fight their way to mining towns, leaving thousands of affected and harmed citizens in their wake. Alongside these massacres, rebel groups will burn down villages and force whole populations to flee from their homes in order to maintain their rough reputation and gain complete control over the territory.
Besides coping with tragic deaths, the civilians left behind then also have to handle being displaced and without refuge. Despite this heart wrenching reality that still continues today, international citizens and organizations fail to acknowledge that these decades of killing and destruction from armed conflict or war related causes have amounted to the “world’s deadliest conflict since WWII,” having victimized over 5.4 million Congolese citizens.
This widespread and colossal conflict has been implemented through rebel groups using atrocious tools of war like “ethnic slaughter, executions, torture, rape and arbitrary arrest,” which leave very few citizens untouched. This harrowing statistic should not need any other words to prove the terror of this situation, yet there are still further consequences while the globe stands by whilst the conflict endures.
Another catastrophic consequence of the DRC’s mining industry is the political and institutional instability that has come with the tumultuous control of the mines. Since the industry is fueled by armed conflict and rebel power, it has been indicatively hard for the central government to consolidate sovereignty and security. As rebel groups emerge and flex their persistent desire to take over mines and political control, the central government has been unable for years to maintain stability and fully oppress secessionist factions.
This hurts every citizen in the country, as years of political erosion have halted democratic reforms and institutional growth. During Joseph Kabila’s reign, this has destroyed his credibility, as shown by his ban on the mineral trade in September 2010 that he had to call off by March 2011 due to not being able to sever the ties between militia groups and mineral traders. Whether this resulted from a lack of resolve, competence, or both, is up for debate, but regardless, the central government is incapable of fulfilling its goals.