How many millions must die before the world takes action to stop a raging conflict? An estimated 5 million people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996. This country’s turmoil has been a tragic sideshow to other events in the region for too long. For over a decade, both government forces and regional militias have killed, raped and mutilated civilians with impunity, and have conscripted many thousands of children into armed service.
The world has let this terrible violence continue unabated and, with the failure of the November 2011 elections to establish a legitimate and credible government, it may become even worse in the months to come. The world needs to mobilize resources and political will to stop the violence.
We all are connected directly to this conflict through our cellphones, computers and cars, and one thing each one of us can do immediately is to support efforts to curtail the lucrative minerals trade that fuels the weapons trade — “conflict minerals.” Just as the world acted to stop the trade in conflict diamonds over a decade ago, we now have the ability to stop armed groups from supporting their wars through sale of minerals that are essential to our electronics and consumer products. That is why we are supporting our allies at Amnesty International call for action to push the Administration to enforce an important new law that would regulate the sale in these minerals and ensure they are not used to fund further conflict
Moreover, the world’s governments can and must do more than this. The United States and other international donor governments can curtail aid to the now-illegitimate Kabila regime and call for free and fair elections immediately. International donors provide 70 percent of Congo’s official national budget. We need to call for this aid to be conditioned on the establishment of a legitimate government, as only a legitimate government can uphold peace agreements and maintain the peace. While this happens, international governments must also maintain firm support for the UN peacekeepers operating in DRC.
A stable national government, supported by legitimate revenue from a transparent minerals trade, and supported by UN peacekeepers while it undertakes needed security sector reform, may finally bring desperately-needed progress to DRC.
We will be asking all our friends and allies to work with us over the next several months to push the U.S. and other governments, the mining sector, and important institutions like the World Bank and United Nations, to make peace in Congo a priority in 2012.