News / Africa

Delay in US Law to Combat Africa's Conflict Minerals Sharpens Divisions

A Congolese man carries a load of mineral chips harvested from inside a deep cassiterite mine located west of the eastern Congolese town of Goma in the north Kivu region (File 2010)
A Congolese man carries a load of mineral chips harvested from inside a deep cassiterite mine located west of the eastern Congolese town of Goma in the north Kivu region (File 2010)

A delay in a U.S. law to combat Congo's so-called conflict minerals has sharpened divisions between advocates of the legislation and those who will need to comply, namely manufacturers and the high-tech industry.

A Washington event on Congo's conflict minerals was held Tuesday evening, a few weeks after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission postponed the adoption of rules for the law that was passed and signed last year, but still not implemented.

Corinna Gilfillan, from the advocacy group Global Witness, was one of many in attendance who shared her disappointment.

"Any delay or phase-in of the law would seriously undermine the aim of the law which is to create greater transparency and accountability over the trade in conflict minerals and therefore help reduce the violence that is being driven by these minerals," said Gilfillan.

The aim of the law is to force thousands of companies that report to the Securities and Exchange Commission and obtain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and nine neighboring countries to reveal the sources of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold they use.

This month, without giving any reason, the SEC postponed announcement of the new rules to between August and December.

A representative of the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers, Stephen Jacobs, called the delay awkward.  He also called for a transitional phase of the law and less rigorous demands.

"The SEC should create a category such as indeterminate origin as a temporary, let me emphasize temporary, measure for products manufactured or produced with conflict minerals that issuers are unable in the first years of their program, despite their best efforts, to determine the origin," said Jacobs.

Gilfillan and other transparency advocates called this request an attempt to, in their words, gut the law.  One sector that is being targeted is the hi-tech industry, because of the importance of Congo's tantalum in making cellphones, laptops and other popular products.

But Rick Goss, from the U.S. Information Technology Industry Council, called the law a sledgehammer, rather than a scalpel. He said it could create a de-facto embargo against mineral products from nearly half of Africa.

"I may not know where all the sourcing is for my products because it goes so far down the supply pyramid," said Goss. "It is unclear once it gets to the smelters and it is refined exactly where the source was. There is no test to determine where the minerals came from, so the only way I can honestly say to the SEC, to the public, to my stakeholders, that I am conflict-free is not to source [get minerals] from anybody who sources from anything that sources from anyone who touches [has anything to do with] Central Africa."

One panelist in favor of the law, Brad Brooks-Rubin, from the U.S. State Department, said the long-term motives of disclosing information about Congo's minerals are a way for many Americans, from the U.S. government to manufacturers and consumers, to try to help end the ongoing conflict in the country's lawless east.

"Being a part of a formalized system that really benefits the Congo, I think there is an inordinate amount of reputational gain that will be had to all of us for being a part of that. I think the question is what risks people are made to bear along the way of getting there," said Brooks-Rubin.

But a Congolese scholar who was on the panel, Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, said he thinks all this U.S. attention to help Congo is misguided.

"The problem in Congo is not the conflict minerals. The problem in Congo is lack of governance, lack of leadership," said Dizolele. "This is a political crisis, so if we ignore the political crisis, we cannot solve all the conflict mineral problems. Congo will not get on its feet."

New legislative and presidential elections are due in the DRC before the end of the year. But multi-party elections in 2006 failed to help end the violence in the country's eastern regions, where rival armed groups compete to control mining areas.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs