The following is in response to a rebuttal by the Enough Project to my previous Foreign Policy story, “How Dodd-Frank Is Ruining Congo.”
In a badly lit room in Bukavu, a city in eastern Congo, about one year ago, a handful of women described being raped for permission to engage in the stupefying grueling lifting of rocks and water for a few dollars a day. They begged for anyone to listen to their suffering. Would anything stop the men at the artisanal mines where they worked from exploiting them?
I left that dark room aware of a disconnect between what American NGOs were saying about Congolese minerals and what these miners had experienced.
My heart ached. I knew that there were groups in the United States trying to stop the violence in this part of the world, and a provision of the U.S. law known as Dodd-Frank — the “conflict minerals” law — is meant to help remove the threat of rape and war from their sites of labor. They hadn’t heard of it. What about armed groups at mines? “The men who rape us are not rebels,” they said. In fact, a few women in the room described having been raped by armed militias while farming instead.
I left that dark room aware of a disconnect between what American NGOs were saying about Congolese minerals and what these miners had experienced. The problem of “conflict minerals” was not quite as all-encompassing as we had perhaps heard in the States.
Congo has been destroyed by nearly 20 years of conflict; its effects have been devastating, yes, and those need to be addressed. But can the regulation of minerals be achieved in a meaningful way, and will that have positive consequences for these women and the others they work with?