Today is the beginning of a concerted effort to dialogue about how our life style affects us and the world. This blog is about how our lifestyle cause suffering in the rest of the world, and Esther Emery will post a blog about grieving. We hope many of you will join us in linking up to our conversation. Best to go to Esther’s site to do that. My yesterday’s blog is about the Scripture,Mathew 5: 3 which is usually translated Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, but in my Spanish Bible is translated “Happy are those who have the spirit of the poor.” It just happened to be the lectionary for next Sunday.
One hundred years ago, the majority of people in the world lived under tribal or dynastic political systems. After WWI and WWII, the Western concept of a world divided into sovereign Nation States with fixed borders, was imposed on the world. In many cases, these borders were established along old colonial lines, negotiated primarily among European nations to insure continued access to valuable resources. Tribal and ethnic groupings were often ignored. The roots of many of today’s global conflicts can be traced back to these post WWI and WWII negotiations.
The Democratic Republic of The Congo and “conflict resources”
In the mid 1990’s the eastern part of the DRC became a war zone when Hutu rebels crossed over the border from neighboring Rwanda, engaging Tutsi rebel groups from the DRC. Because of the rich mineral deposits in Eastern Congo, the war grew, eventually involving eight African nations and over 20 rebel groups, and has become known as the ”African World War.”
The “conflict resources” of Eastern Congo which financed this war and over which it was fought are:
- Gold, which price has recently soared on the commodities market
- Tin, which is used in household electronic items as the solder for circuit boards
- Tungsten, which is used in TVs and mobile phones
- Coltan/Tantalum, a vital component in small electronic devices, mobile phones, laptops, and pagers.
The DRC has 80% of the world’s Coltan deposits. Around 2000, because of the meteoric rise in the demand for mobile phones and the mass production of Sony Playstation II, the price of Coltan went from $30 per pound to $380 per pound. The rush was on. Students dropped out of school. Farmers and shepherds left their duties and started artisanal mining. It didn’t take long for local militia to take over the mines and local communities, ruling them with violence. Miners, many of them children barely earned enough to survive. Most of the minerals were smuggled across the border into Uganda and Rwanda, then exported to the far east for processing. From the moment of extraction until the use in an electronic device, Coltan passes through numerous hands, including those financed by as many as 100 western corporations.
The toll on human life has been enormous: 5.4 million lives: the highest death toll of any conflict in the world since World War II. Half of those killed have been children.
Since 2008 the situation has improved somewhat, in part because of the discovery of Coltan in Brazil, Australia, Venezuela and Colombia. But the conflict continues in the DRC, and the pattern of violence; fueled by our desires and the greed of those who satisfy those desires, will keep repeating throughout the world until we learn to curb our material desires and enjoy the bountiful gifts God has already given us.
Just as the creation of contemporary Africa was influenced by European economic interests, so the U.S. foreign policy is designed to insure the continuation of our affluent lifestyle. Africa is now the largest supplier of petroleum to the U.S. The U.S. does not have major military bases in Africa, but it does have the equivalent of two large military basses on aircraft carriers off both coasts of Africa. And one of the requirements of participation in the “Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.” is that the U.S. has the right to occupy any military base of any African country that has signed on to this Act, on one days notice.
Just as FDR supported Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua, because of his anti-communism stance, so the U.S. supports Uganda and Rwanda because of their strong support of the Global War on Terror and their participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.