Despite the news this week that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have filed a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission over the conflict minerals regulation, both companies and activists continue to fight for progress.
Since 1996, the deadliest war since World War II has claimed over 5.4 million lives due to war-related causes, and over two million people have been displaced in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo—roughly 500,000 since April alone.
The conflict-gold rush is thriving in eastern Congo. Recent U.S. legislation and supply-chain pressure from tech companies has made it difficult for armed groups in the region to sell the 3-T minerals—tin, tantalum, and tungsten—and as a result, rebels and army commanders have increasingly turned to gold. In a report released today, the Enough Project looks at the illegal conflict-gold trade in eastern Congo that is fueling one of the most violent conflicts in the world.
The specter of a lawsuit hung over the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s process writing its conflict minerals regulations and was to blame for the SEC’s long delay releasing the final rules that were finally issued in August. Late last week the National Association of Manufacturers, or NAM, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce made their move, initiating a legal challenge against the SEC and requesting that “the rule be modified or set aside in whole or in part.”
A tenuous stalemate in eastern Congo remains in place between the Congolese army, or FARDC, and the growing insurgency of the Rwanda-backed M23. However, a series of recent events might signal escalation towards conflict in advance of regional talks or further international intervention.
Details from a confidential U.N. Group of Experts report on Congo emerged last week that show that smuggling of minerals into Rwanda and Burundi is on the rise, in spite of Congolese government efforts to regulate the trade. Furthermore, it seems that the profits from minerals clandestinely transported across the border are being used to fund the M23 rebellion, which began in April and has left half a million people displaced.
A recent confidential report from the U.N. Group of Experts on Congo was leaked to Reuters yesterday that shows further evidence of Rwandan support to the M23 rebellion in eastern Congo. The report allegedly indicates that Rwanda's defense minister, James Kabarebe, is commanding the rebellion.
Editor's Note: Activists in Portland, Oregon, are gaining traction with several initiatives focused on making the city investments free from conflict minerals from Congo. In this guest post by Alysha Atma, Amanda Ulrich, and Robert Hadley, the Oregon Coalition for Humanity members describe their recent successes.