On a quarterly basis, Jewish World Watch provides an update on the status of the genocide in Congo.
Congo Quarterly Update – Archives
Democratic Republic of Congo – Quarterly Update
June 20, 2011
New Rape Statistics
New statistics published in May in the American Journal of Public Health reveal that previously reported levels of rape and sexual violence in Congo were vast underestimations. For the first time, researchers used nationally representative household survey data. Previous studies have been limited in geographic focus to the eastern provinces and relied on self-reporting by women to UN agencies or hospital/clinic records [this is not called self-reported]. This study used nationally representative data from household surveys. The use of the data is significant not only because it revealed greater numbers, but because the data was representative of all of Congo, not just the conflict zones, and represents all women in Congo, not just those who reported their rapes to authorities or those who sought medical attention.
The numbers revealed by this study are staggering. 1152 women are raped every day. 48 every hour. 4 every five minutes. These numbers are 26 times higher than previous UN estimates. Even these estimates are conservative – the data included only women ages 15-49. Girls under 15, women over 49 and men/boys were excluded from the study.
Approximately 12 percent of women surveyed were raped at least once in their lifetimes, and 3 percent had been raped in the 12-month period before the survey. 22% had been forced by their partners to have sex or perform sexual acts against their will, showing that sexual abuse often happens at home. Perhaps most revealing in the study is the pervasive culture of violence and impunity that women must navigate in Congo. Women are targeted regardless of their level of education, income or whether they live in rural or urban areas. Provinces such as Equateur, in the country’s relatively stable northwest, reveal higher levels of sexual violence than some conflict zones.
This is more than a spill-over effect from conflict. The constant and consistent instability that has plagued Congo for decades has eroded both state institutions and societal norms to a level so destructive that the horror of rape is beginning to sound commonplace.
Special Envoy for Congo and the Great Lakes Region
The conflict in Congo is complex and resolving it requires a comprehensive and coordinated strategy. But no such strategy for addressing the crisis there exists. As a major international donor to Congo the US could play a vital role both in producing such a strategy and coordinating it among international and Congolese partners.
But to do so, our government would have to coordinate amongst its own disparate and varied diplomats, all currently addressing separate issues within the wider Great Lakes Region of Africa, of which Congo is a vital part. Just within the State Department’s Africa Bureau there are three separate positions all dealing with Congo’s various issues – the Congo portfolio falls to the Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Central and Southern Africa, regional security issues are the responsibility of the DAS for East Africa and Regional Affairs, while regional economic issues, like Congo’s illicit conflict minerals trade, fall to the DAS for West Africa. Add to that various Ambassadors and Ambassadors-at-Large and Congo is left with a hodge-podge of uncoordinated responses – and that’s just from the US government.
A Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region would be uniquely positioned to develop a comprehensive strategy for Congo and to coordinate that strategy with other donor states and the Congolese government.
Though JWW has been calling for the urgent appointment of a Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region (which includes Congo) for quite some time, the publication of these new rape statistics added new urgency to the campaign. In the past few months JWW has been at the forefront of a new coalition of NGOs demanding the appointment of a Special Envoy, a position established by Public Law 109-456, written by then-Senator Barack Obama, co-sponsored by then-Senator Hillary Clinton and passed by Congress in 2006. This coalition has generated more than 24,000 signatures on a petition calling for a Special Envoy. It also helped draft Dear Colleague letters in the House and Senate –signed by 15 Senators and 36 Representatives – calling for the appointment. The coalition further drafted a letter calling for a Special Envoy – and associated tasks of that Envoy – signed by 27 NGOs and 50 Congolese organizations as well.
Most recently, Jewish World Watch and A Thousand Sisters co-sponsored a Virtual March on Washington, hosted through Facebook, calling for the urgent appointment of a Special Envoy. More than 1500 people posted photos demanding a Special Envoy to the designated Facebook Page between May 16-20 – the page garnered 115,000 page views in just one week. JWW has downloaded all the photos and made them available to in a photobook, viewable here: http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=8684a89b73c52ad3&sid=0AYt2TNi3aN2T2Q
This photobook and a follow-up letter are being sent to President Obama and Secretary Clinton. We will be demanding the appointment of a Special Envoy as well as asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.
Conflict Minerals Legislation
As previously reported, provisions regulating the use of conflict minerals from eastern Congo were included in the final version of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act that passed in July 2010. The legislation requires companies that report to the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) and who manufacture products that require the use of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, must trace their supply chains and report whether or not those minerals are being sourced from Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring countries. However, the Federal law is not a ban but merely a reporting requirement reinforcing the country’s commitment to stop the violence in eastern Congo.
In February, California State Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) introduced Senate Bill 861 (SB 861), which would prohibit CA State contracts with publicly traded companies failing to comply with the Federal regulations on conflict minerals (per the Dodd-Frank Act). After a successful JWW-organized lobby day on April 11, 2011, the bill passed the Governmental Organization committee of the CA Senate with near-unanimous support. The bill subsequently passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and through the Senate floor with strong bipartisan support.
The California Chamber of Commerce withdrew its opposition to the bill after amendments were added clarifying both which companies would be prohibited from CA State contracts and how companies could hope to make amends and therefore be re-eligible for contracts if found in violation. Companies will only be prohibited from CA State contracts if the SEC, which is responsible for drafting and enforcing the Dodd-Frank regulations, enforces upon a company and receives a judgment against it. Companies will be re-eligible for CA State contracts if the SEC finds them to be no longer in violation of their regulations or if three years has passed.
Though on the surface these amendments seem to have weakened the bill, legislators responsible for drafting the Federal legislation on conflict minerals have assured JWW that the language is as strong as can be expected while Federal regulations are still in draft form. The SEC has been delayed in finalizing the conflict mineral provision regulations and is not expected to release final regulations before August – it may only release them as late as December 2011.
With these amendments, JWW and its coalition partners expect little oppostition as SB 861 moves through the assembly in the next few months. The bill is due to have a hearing at the Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection on June 28. JWW is still in support of full and swift passage of SB 861.
Conflict Minerals: Effects on the Ground
The mineral export ban issued by Congolese President Joseph Kabila on three provinces of eastern Congo in September 2010 has been lifted, but by all accounts had disastrous consequences for local communities, including major job losses. Meanwhile, the ban appears to have done little to curb the unlawful trade of minerals, which has continued to fund both state and non-state armed groups throughout the months of its imposition.
Consultations took place in March between President Kabila, his advisors and key constituencies to determine a way forward as they lifted the ban. Three main recommendations came out of these consultations:
1. That all artisanal miners should be required to form cooperatives and register with the State;
2. That comptoirs (traders) should increase the value of minerals by sorting and processing them before exporting them, thereby producing more revenue/profit for the State;
3. That tracing and tagging mineral supply chains should be a requirement for ALL actors involved, implemented in large part through the tin trade association ITRI.
Global Witness has further reported that Kinshasa has felt pressure to reform the mining sector ahead of the elections scheduled for November. That pressure has translated to the demilitarization of Bisie, the most important tin mine in the region. Jason Stearns, a Congo analyst reporting through the blog Congo Siasa, reported recently that army units there have largely been replaced by mining police.
There has been movement on conflict minerals in the international community as well. A May 19 meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Devleopment (OECD) led to an international joint framework for due diligence on conflict-free supply chains – a framework that has already been referenced by the US Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) in their draft regulations on conflict minerals as the model for due diligence.
The Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), a trade association for the electronics industry, announced recently that they would stop sourcing minerals from conflict zones in Congo as of April 1, 2011 – much at the same time as the SEC announced that it may delay the implementation of Federal reporting requirements. Sources from Catholic Relief Services, working on the ground in Congo in the months since these announcements have reported that they have made a significant impact: “There is general agreement that the EICC/GeSCI decision to stop purchasing minerals (the nuances don’t seem to be apparent to people on the ground) has caused difficulties here. That said, almost everyone we’ve talked to (from MONUSCO to comptoirs to NGOs to Catholic priests) has said that, while the (supposed) inability to sell conflict minerals is a problem, they want the US to go ahead and have 1502 [the conflict minerals provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill] take effect now – and not have a delayed start-up… Everyone we asked said that an SEC mandated delay in full reporting would not be good for people in the eastern Congo. The reasons they gave were that an SEC delay would:
. Have a negative economic impact on miners and others in the region (both in rural areas and in towns);
. Reduce pressure on the government of the DRC and other actors to get tracing mechanisms in place;
. Provide an incentive for armed groups to quickly grasp control over lucrative mines to milk as much from them as possible before the reporting fully takes effect;
. Prolong the uncertainty and make it harder for all stakeholders to take effective action.
So far, all except one interviewee said that the Kabila ban and company “de facto embargo” have weakened the armed groups – particularly the militias – by reducing the funds available to them (one person from MONUSCO attributed the weakening to joint military actions). All said that, people told us that though there are certainly negative economic impacts on local people right now and there seems to be an increase in “banditry” by armed groups and by displaced miners, they expected these to be short term and that on balance they were very optimistic about positive medium and long term impacts of ‘the Obama law.’”
In addition, there is some movement of international companies away from their rejection of due diligence/tracing, and even some potential investments in these efforts. Most significant is the Malaysia Smelting Corporation (MSC), the largest purchaser of Congolese tin. MSC is trying to work out a deal with the Congolese government wherein it will take over major tin mining concessions in Maniema, North Kivu and South Kivu – a step towards shifting the region from artisanal to industrial mining. Stearns reports that MSC has indicated that it would invest $10 million in tagging and tracing schemes through ITRI, the tin trade association. MSC had originally threatened to boycott Congolese minerals entirely if tracing became mandatory by US law – this move suggests that MSC intends to continue in Congo and continue producing for US markets.