minerals

Nicole Mawazo lives in Ngoyo and has built up a successful business by combining farming with operating a small restaurant. Forced to look after herself and her brothers after Rwandan or Ugandan soldiers killed her parents, Nicole began producing ‘Kindingi’, a home-made, highly alcoholic, corn-banana brew, which she sold to artisanal miners. Eventually, she saved up enough to start farming and running a restaurant. “This has provided well for us,” she explained proudly, adding that her husband contributes almost nothing to the family.

Gold mining has a particularly destructive impact on children, who can earn US$50 per month from gold mining. For children whose families regularly teeter on the brink of starvation the choice is simple. “Going to school is a waste of time for them,” said Lillian, a teacher. “Gold is too tempting. 10-year-olds threaten me with physical violence if I ask them to return to school.” Although it is widely understood that the law forbids children working as miners, police controls are sporadic and almost always unsuccessful.

With the invasions of the first Arab and Belgian conquerors and colonialists, traditional Congolese land management and governance systems were severely disrupted. The new systems imposed by European administrators may well be one of the ‘most important means by which African economies were rendered structurally dependent on external economies and markets’.

The Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) organised a major consultative conference in Kinshasa on 2-3 May, 2013 to discuss the impact of key peace agreements and the trade in conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The laws of war, also known as international humanitarian law, have long protected property against pillage during armed conflict.

A week ago I returned from a working trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I participated in a conference about the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the so-called conflict minerals. The Conference brought together Congolese academics, political leaders and representatives of civil society organizations in a memorable moment of reflection about ways and means to usher in lasting peace in Congo and end the illicit and illegal trade and looting of natural resources.

SARW calls for measures to make law work in DRC

Poverty, Abuse and the Collapse of Family and Community Structures

The mining of minerals and precious stones has deep historic roots in Central Africa. As Bantu-speaking people spread from northwest Congo deep into the Congo Basin, they introduced metallurgy, in particular the skill to forge tools and weapons out of iron and copper. While limited evidence exists for the underground mining of these metals, ample traces of alluvial mining, smelters and regional commerce remain in the southern and eastern parts of today’s Congo, testifying to the value of these minerals in ancient times.

But land use rights did not equal land ownership, and certainly did not equate to the comprehensive proprietary rights that allegedly a Nigerian chief formulated with these words: “I conceive that land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living and countless members are still unborn.” Pre-colonial Congolese concepts of land ownership and usage rights are distinguished by three categories: collective, individual and common ownership.

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