Natural resources have been portrayed as the main contributing factor to political and economic instability in developing nations. African continent contains the highest percentage of natural resources that have remained underutilized due to inadequate capital equipment to extract resources. Unfortunately, developed nations have seized the opportunity and invested their infrastructure to mine these scarce resources at the expense of the local society. Consequently, conflict has emerged and has threatened economic and social development in the affected countries. A conflict mineral is a name that has been used to describe those minerals that have negatively affected the social and economic stability of developing nations.
Conflict minerals are those minerals found in developing nations, for example, the Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sierra Leone. These minerals have been attributed to the economic and political instability in these countries. Profits gained from the sale of these minerals are used to finance insurgents and rebel groups who use the cash to purchase guns and ammunitions with intent to overthrow existing governments. The major conflict minerals that have been fronted as a threat to stability of a country are Diamond and Coltan
Diamond is a mineral extracted in the landmines, in the Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d ‘Ivoire, Sierra Leone and other nations. (Reddy, Henry & Oppong, 2005: 51). This mineral has been described as a blood diamond due to its impact on the stability of the aforementioned nations. Local Citizens have complained of neglect by the governments and thus resulted in forming warlords. Income generated from the sale of Gold is used by insurgents to destabilize the government. On the other hand Coltan, also known as tantalite is a metallic ore used to manufacturing electronic products. Coltan is extracted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and has been associated with sponsoring warlord activities in Congo.
Despite enormous possession of Diamond and Coltan, wealthy nations have been the greatest beneficiaries due to their economic influence and infrastructural development. In addition, smugglers have identified these nations as sale points because the minerals are essential in production of valuable products. Therefore, this research paper delve into establishing the reasons why local communities in developing nations rarely benefit from the natural resources and instead external parties are the greatest beneficiary. The research will concentrate on the political and social instability in African nations especially DRC, Sierra Leone and Angola, caused by Diamond and Coltan.
United Nations Statistics indicated that DRC, Angola and Sierra Leone citizens have been languishing in poverty despite enormous possession of diamond minerals. Conflict diamonds have been a contributing factor to civil wars in these nations. Civil war has led to the loss of more than 3.7 million people within two decades. For instance, conflict in DRC is attributed to the emergence of conflict diamonds in the country. According to United Nations definition, blood diamonds are controlled by rebels who smuggle the minerals and use the income to fund their heinous activities. (Reddy, Henry, & Oppong, 2005:51).
Bureaucracy in the government is a major factor that has denied local communities from reaping the benefits of diamonds and Coltan. The government owns 100% of the mining areas thus denying local communities where the minerals are located a chance to influence the control of diamonds. For instance, in Botswana, the mineral deposits are jointly owned on a50-50 basis between the government and the local communities. Consequently, both parties benefit from sale proceeds and thus social stability has been maintained. Economic empowerment in developed nations has led to increasing in demand for diamonds and Coltan. These nations create a supply gap of diamonds and induce citizens to smuggle the precious minerals. Consequently, cartels have emerged to form the market gap. (Reddy, Henry & Oppong, 2005:55). According to the United Nations Report of 2002, De Beers was the greatest beneficiary of illicit diamond trade in the world due its international monopoly dominance. Consequently, local communities have had to share the meager income gained sale proceeds by the government. In DRC, diamond conflicts emerged when Joseph Kabila sought political support from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia through mineral concessions. (Reddy, Henry, & Oppong, 2005:59). Such concessions formed the basis for smuggling of diamonds to neighboring countries thus denying the local gains from mineral deposits.
Infrastructural under-development in developing nations is another factor that emphasizes the argument that local communities are far from benefiting from diamonds extraction. Foreign investors have linked with local miners by indirectly investing in the mining industry. Local miners are paid low wages against the hard work and harsh mining environment. In addition, individual miners sell diamonds to foreigners who offer low prices for the proceeds. Therefore, local communities are unable to sustain their basic needs. Moreover, money generated by foreign nations from diamond proceeds is used to purchase weapons that are transferred to Africa nations to ignite civil wars. (Reddy, Henry, & Oppong, 2005:60). Civil wars lead to political and economic instability and; therefore, it would be challenging for them to realize the gains from diamond minerals.
The argument that local communities would continue to suffer from foreign exploitation is manifested in the film titled “Blood Diamond” This film is political war thriller that premiered in 2006.The film is based on blood diamonds mined in sierra Leone, and the proceeds were used to fund civil unrest in the war tone country. Edward Zwick; the film director, based part of the film on an actual meeting that occurred in Kimberly, South Africa in 2000 to discuss modalities of mitigating trading of conflict diamonds. Edward Zwick portrays Revolutionary United Front rebels, who terrorized the citizens and enslaved them to extract diamonds. They used the sale proceeds to fund their heinous activities. Local people continued to languish in poverty while others died .This film indicates that unless political willingness and stringent policies established, local communities will continue to suffer at the expense of foreign nations.
The other conflict mineral that explains why local citizens seem to benefit little from natural resources is Coltan or Columbite- tantalite, which is mainly found in the eastern areas of DRC. This mineral is a crucial component that is used in the capacitors to control the current flow in the circuit boards of cell phones. At one point, the tech boom made the price of Coltan skyrocket to as high as 600 US dollars per kilogram, compared to an earlier value of 65 US dollars per kilogram, even though it has settled down to approximately 100 US dollars/kilogram at the present. Therefore, the above description demonstrates that Coltan is a valuable mineral. Nevertheless, the mineral is only valuable to the foreigners but not to the Congolese since soldiers, child laborers, and warlords in Congo have toiled over this valuable mineral for a long period.
The latest report by the United Nations declared that all involved parties in the local civil war, in Congo, have essentially been involved in both mining and sale of Columbite- tantalite, which proves that this valuable mineral is of no benefit to Congolese. The other report suggested that the bordering Rwandan Army generated 250 million US dollars from selling Columbite- tantalite in less than one and a half years, despite the fact that there is no Coltan in Rwanda. What’s more, the report implicates Burundi and Uganda military forces in smuggling Columbite- tantalite out of DRC for the resale in Belgium. Thus, this is an indication that the local individuals benefit so little from the valuable resources in their countries at the foreigners’ expense.
The truth of the question posed in ‘Made in Madagascar’ text is further revealed by Mantz in his article titled, “Improvisational economies: Coltan production in the eastern Congo.” In Mantz article, he inspects the political economy of the violence in DRC, which is a country marked by the genocidal campaigns where the local citizens are robbed and raped. The wars in Congo have been contributed by the global market for Coltan. According to Mantz, large quantities of Columbite- tantalite are extracted and sold to the foreign purchasers to finance the military operations (Mantz, 2008: 36).
We expect enhanced lives for the people of Congo because Congo is the primary producer of Coltan, but this is not the case. Mantz describes the challenges that the local miners face while mining Coltan. He argues that the miners manage to complete the unfathomable task of obtaining Coltan without any tools or machinery, and across extreme expanses of the forested land for the sale to the foreign buyers. Thus, this proves that natural resources are only valuable to the foreigners. Throughout the article, Mantz has tried to demonstrate how little the local people in Congo benefit from Coltan at the expense of the foreign buyers. He has described the miners as unemployed.
The reality of the question posed in ‘Made in Madagascar’ text is further proved by the movie titled, “Conflict Minerals Rebels and Child Solders in Congo.” In the movie, we realize that Congo is among the poorest nations in the world. The roads in Congo are in poor conditions as revealed by the movie, despite the fact that Congo is possesses 80% of Coltan in the world. What is disturbing is the reality that despite the country possessing huge amounts of Coltan; it only extracts a fraction of this vital natural resource. After watching the movie, we recognize that the mineral mines are located in the region home to the conflict and bloodiest violence. In addition, the rebels and government troops (FARCD) control the mines. What’s more, these troops and rebels control the mines and the nearby communities with the iron fists, which make the conditions for children and men that serve at the mines tough.
Blood Diamond Documentary [Video file]. (2012, June 19). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bzMrxVwl74
Mantz, J. W. (2008). Improvisational economies: Coltan production in the eastern Congo: IMPROVISATIONAL ECONOMIES. Social Anthropology, 16(1), 34-50. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8676.2008.00035.x
Reddy, S. G., Henry, D., & Oppong, J. R. (2005). Conflict, Diamonds and the Political Economy of Instability in Africa.
Suroosh, A. (2012, May 22). Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYqrflGpTRE
Walsh, A. (2012). Made in Madagascar: Sapphires, ecotourism, and the global bazaar. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.