Democratic Republic of Congo: Celebrating 50 Years of Independence!
June 29th, 2010
On 30th June 2010, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence from Belgium. The DRC has been described as the ‘heart of Africa’ and is home to enormous natural wealth and resources. However, for the last two decades, Congo has been caught up in armed conflict described as one the world’s deadliest. The fighting in the eastern DRC is fueled in large part by conflict minerals which include coltan (columbite-tantalite), cassiterite (tin ore) and wolframite (tungsten). These metals are used in consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptop computers. The Congo conflict has left millions of people dead. Thousands of women have been victimized by rape and countless children have been kidnapped to serve as child soldiers.
Marking the 50th Independence anniversary during the annual meeting of the Catholic Bishops, Bishop Nicolas Djomo, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Congo, said that the independence anniversary is an opportune time to offer prayers of thanks to God for a sense of belonging to a united nation and to ask God’s forgiveness for omissions and opportunities lost. He went on further to say that the anniversary is a time to renew a commitment to promoting the common good and national solidarity.
Oblate JPIC Response to the Congo Situation
The Missionary Oblate JPIC staff extends our best wishes to the Congolese Oblates and the people they serve in their different ministries. In this spirit of solidarity, the Oblate JPIC office supports U.S. Congressional actions that will work to decrease conflict minerals. We support the Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 (H.R. 4128) and Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 (S. 891). If passed, these bills which would map mines in conflict zones and require companies selling products incorporating such minerals to certify that their products are free of minerals from conflict areas.
The Oblate JPIC office is encouraged that the Conference Committee working out the Wall Street Reform legislation agreed to an important amendment that will have a long-lasting, and positive, impact on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The amendment will address the devastating trade in certain minerals coming from the DRC, minerals that end up fueling armed groups responsible for human rights abuses there.
In May 2010, Oblate JPIC staff participated in a two day multi-stakeholder forum on DRC Conflict Minerals in Washington D.C, which brought together leading companies, investors and civil society organizations to address challenges of mineral sourcing from Congo. In June 2010, the Director of the JPIC office, Fr Seamus Finn, OMI during a tour of Africa, visited a mining company in Lubumbashi (DRC) to see first hand, the impact of mining on communities.
As socially responsible investors, the Missionary Oblates continue to engage U.S. corporations with mining operations in Congo. We raise concerns about the impacts of those operations on Congolese people especially the impacts of village resettlements, community engagement projects and human rights violations.