Last month, Donald Trump indicated that he intended to issue an executive order repealing section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, a provision enacted by the Obama Administration aimed at preventing the importation of conflict minerals into the US.
What do civil society leaders make of this in Kinshasa?
I put this question to Henri Muhiya of the Commission Episcopale pour les Ressources Naturelles (CERN). CERN is supported by the DRC Bishops’ Conference and promotes a sustainable use of DRC’s natural resources. Its vision is that resources are used in a way that cause the least harm to the environment and protects human dignity.
Henri greatly fears the potential damage of Trump’s proposed action. He believes that the absence of US law covering supply chains of minerals from conflict areas is likely to benefit armed groups in Eastern DRC. This will lead to an escalation of violence in the region. Armed groups exploit illegal “artensenal” mines whose workforce consist of men, women and very often children, who are driven by poverty to work in appalling conditions. Henri points out that the knock-on effect of an increase in conflict, an influx of unregulated mining, and resulting political instability creates a situation which deters new commercial investment into an already troubled region. Companies who might have previously mined in a responsible manner, opt not to invest in infrastructure for the area.
These points were echoed by other DRC-based networks who were keen to emphasise that European countries must now redouble their efforts to effectively implement the conflict mineral legislation recently approved in Brussels.
Henri Muhiya also spoke about CERN’s role in a new pan-central Africa ecclesial network for safeguarding the Congo Basin called REBAC. Modelled on an equivalent network that exists in South America for the Amazon region, REBAC builds on paragraph 38 of Laudato Si which states the imperative of preserving the Amazon and Congo regions since they are “lungs” for the planet.
With the aim of providing a platform for coordination and strength among communities belonging to various countries in central Africa, REBAC also reflects Laudato Si’s central message of the need for an integral approach to development that transcends national boundaries and interests. Henri explained that one of the present challenges for REBAC is to get Rwanda and Burundi involved in the network.