Conflict Minerals from the DRCongo

[Montréal, Québec, Canada -2°C]  The Concordia Initiative for a Conflict-Free Campus (CCIC) works “towards consumer and student awareness surrounding conflict minerals as well as amendments to Concordia University’s purchasing policy for electronic products.” On March 22, I attended the CCIC’s panel discussion: The Concordia International Forum on Conflict Minerals.

(poster for the Concordia Forum on Conflict Minerals)

The four panelists offered a diverse perspective of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. they provided inside to conditions in the mines, the militias that get rich of the minerals, international government collaboration, corporate complicity and our insatiable thirst for the minerals like coltan, in all of our electronic gadgetry.

Dr. Leander Schneider is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Concordia University. His research focuses on the politics of development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Schneider provided a brief historical background to the conflict in the DRCongo. He also offered a visual, geographic view of the country and its neighbours and the location of many of the mines that finance much of the conflict, particularly in the North Kivu region that borders on Uganda and Rwanda. Listen to his conference presentation INTRODUCTION podcast below

The second speaker was Frank Poulsen, director of the documentary film, Blood in the Mobile. It is the story about how our phones are connected to illegal mining in the DRCongo. Every time we communicate through our cell phones we are associated with the crimes in that country. Blood in the Mobile won the Cinema for Peace Justice Award on Feb 14, 2011 at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.  The film is having a special presentation in May 2011 at Toronto’s HotDocs Film Festival. Watch the trailer here and Listen to his conference presentation FILMMAKER podcast below

Paul Dewar is NDP federal member of parliament for Ottawa Centre who initiated Bill C-571, also referred to as the “Trade in conflict-Minerals Act”. Bill C-571 is an Act respecting corporate practices relating to the purchase of minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Bill C-571 is designed to force Canadian corporations to practice due diligence to ensure that they are not purchasing conflict minerals by reporting on the supply chain of the minerals. Although Dewar stated that the bill will not stop violence, rape and conflict in the DRCongo, it is a first step to creating a bill that can later be amended to more stringent regulation. The bill was tabled with a first reading on Sept 30, 2010 and has yet to go to a vote in parliament. Upcoming elections may kill the bill altogether. Listen to his conference presentation BILL C-571 below

Kambale Musavuli giving presentation at 2011 Concordia Forum on Conflict Minerals

Kambalé Musavuli is a Congolese activist, spokesperson and student coordinator with the Friends of the Congo, advocacy organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is “to raise the consciousness of the world community on the challenge of the Congo and support Congolese institutions in bringing about a peaceful and lasting change.” His presentation was the most dynamic. It is clear that he has travelled widely and presented the work of Friends of the Congo at university campuses and elsewhere many times. He gave an alternative history of the DRCongo and provided a framework of ways for people to act to bring about change. Listen to his conference presentation FRIENDS OF CONGO below

Alain Deneault, author of Noir Canada: pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, a book whose authors and publisher received are being sued for a combined total of $11 million by Barrick Gold and Banro Corporation in a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in an attempt to quash freedom of expression and prevent public discussion about abusive and highly criticized mining practices in Africa by these two Canadian mining giants. Deneault is also the author of OffShore: Paradis fiscaux et souveraineté criminelle, also published by Les Édition Écosociété. The English language edition Offshore: Tax Havens and the Rule of global Crime is expected to be published later this year by The New Press. Listen to his conference presentation CANADA AS MINING HAVEN below

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