How we touch Africa each and every day.
Do you know what coltan is? Or why it’s important? Wikipedia says THIS.
National and ethnic power struggles are often about resources. QuakerDave have a good blog relating a personal experience in this one, called “The Slaughter in Your Pocket”.
Some manufacturers have refused to purchase it from this country. Although the Democratic Republic of Congo only contributes an estimated 1% of the total production of world coltan, it’s very hard to verify where the mineral originates, once it’s in the market. It’s used in the production of capacitors; including cell phones, Play Stations, DVD players and computers. This metal has fueled that strife that the Congo is now again suffering. Today’s report from Addis Abba, indicates the difficulty:
African Union Condemns Violence in Congo
By Peter Heinlein
31 October 2008
[The African Union has condemned the violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and is launching a ‘quiet diplomacy’ initiative aimed at bringing all parties involved to the negotiating table. VOA’s Peter Heinlein has more from AU headquarters in Addis Ababa….]
A massive market downturn is not likely to improve things, as a sudden drop in funding for this effort will only make the conflict more uncertain.
It’s useful to note cell phones are not just something developed economies employ. African countries and other emerging markets have made wide use of cell phones, where land-lines are not possible or developed. The DGDEV.org has published a couple of good articles on the subject. Seen in this light, the struggle in Africa could be seen as over communication itself.
In addition, the mining of coltan has impacted gorillas.
[…The main area where Coltan is mined, also contains the Kahuzi Biega National Park, home of the Mountain Gorilla. In Kahuzi Biega National Park the gorilla population has been cut nearly in half, from 258 to 130 as the ground is cleared to make mining easier. Not only has this reduced the available food for the Gorillas, the poverty caused by the displacement of the local populations by the miners has lead to Gorillas being killed and their meat being sold as “bush meat” to the miners and rebel armies that control the area. Within the Dem. Rep. of Congo as a whole, the U.N. Environment Program has reported that the number of eastern lowland gorillas in eight Dem. Rep. of Congo national parks has declined by 90% over the past 5 years, and only 3,000 now remain.”…]
The world has other sources of coltan; in Africa, this is the only known source. What does this mean about us and our involvement in this long-standing conflict?
To start let’s see what the presidential candidates have to say about this issue. The Congo Planet grabbed the relevant information from the Tenesseee Debates.
Madeleine Albright called this conflict “Africa’s First World War”. This is a place where 6 million people have died, with more casualities than Iraq, Afganistan and Darfur combined. Sylvestre Ngoma Calls it “The Biggest Moral Failure of the Bush Administration“. It’s not clear that either Obama or McCain will receive a different evaluation.
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