U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday called the conflicts in
the eastern Democratic of Congo the world's worst example of violence
towards women. She accused the beneficiaries of the area's mineral
trade of maintaining the region's instability for their own gain.
at a public forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Secretary Clinton previewed her
upcoming stop in the eastern DRC city of Goma by saying she will use
the occasion to denounce violence against women in the conflict area.
be in Goma. And I will be there primarily to speak out against the
unspeakable violence against women and girls in eastern Congo. It is
the worst example of man's inhumanity to women," she said.
Congo has long been a center of instability and conflict in the region.
The Congolese army, backed by a United Nations peacekeeping force, is
currently fighting the ethnic Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR. Farther north, the Congolese army is
also pitted against a Ugandan rebel force positioned in DRC territory.
human rights groups have accused all sides of the conflict of staging
more war against the area civilians than against each other. Reports
have indicated widespread atrocities against the local population,
including systematic rape and the burning of villages full of women and
Both the Congolese army and the FDLR are alleged to be cooperating with each other in exploiting the area's abundant mines.
area is especially rich in coltan and tin ore. Coltan is used in the
production of electronic products such as cell phones, video games, and
"Yes, there are tribal and other reasons why the
conflicts are going on. But get below the surface. It's because there
are mines in eastern Congo that produce the minerals that go into our
cell phones and our other electronics. There is a lot of money being
made by a lot of people, but it sure isn't helping the people of the
DRC," said Clinton.
Secretary Clinton remarked that the U.S.'s
long term policy goal in the DRC was to help build up the country's
infrastructure and institutions so as to make it more governable. There
are only several hundred kilometers of paved roads in the entire
But Secretary Clinton said the short term U.S. agenda
in the DRC is ending the crisis in its eastern region that is ravaging
the area's population and reducing its rich natural resources.
secretary foreshadowed the U.S. strategy towards ending the conflict,
saying that economic considerations of the militias and bordering
nations benefitting from the minerals trade must be put at the center
of negotiations. Advocacy groups have accused international mediators
of focusing too much on superficial political factors and not enough on
the lucrative trades that ultimately fuel the instability.
are looking for ways to try to create conditions where the corporations
and the countries who are exploiting the mineral wealth understand it
is in their interest to try and help diminish the conflict," she said.
of State Clinton added that another key component to U.S. policy in the
area is helping to build a better disciplined Congolese army supported
by a more effective U.N. peacekeeping mission.
out of the eastern DRC have indicated that civilian males are
increasingly being targeted for sexual assault as well.
Secretary Clinton will be in South Africa on Friday as the next leg of her Africa tour.