Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Placeby Peter Eichstaedt
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Going behind the headlines and deep into the brutal world of the Congo, this exposé examines why eastern Congo is the most dangerous place on the planet. While the Western world takes for granted its creature comforts such as cell phones or computers, five million Congolese needlessly die in the quest for the valuable minerals that make those technologies
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Going behind the headlines and deep into the brutal world of the Congo, this exposé examines why eastern Congo is the most dangerous place on the planet. While the Western world takes for granted its creature comforts such as cell phones or computers, five million Congolese needlessly die in the quest for the valuable minerals that make those technologies work. Much of the war-torn country has largely become lawless, overrun by warlords who exploit and murder the population for their own gain. Delving into the history of the former Belgian colony, this book exposes the horror of day-to-day life in the Congo, largely precipitated by colonial exploitation and internal strife after gaining independence. It offers not only a view into the dire situation but also examines how the Western world, a part of the problem, can become a part of the solution.
"A powerful and long-overdue expose of greed and violence in the battle over Africa’s mineral wealth. . . . A harrowing and important work that shows yet again that far-flung conflicts touch closer to home that we may imagine."—Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones
"An exceptional book that opens up the complicated and brutal reality of life in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By explaining and connecting the violence that occurs on the ground to the products it facilitates, Eichstaedt serves up a devastating global insight into the perpetuation of violence in the DRC.” —Sarnata Reynolds, Amnesty International USA
"Eichstaedt provides counterpoint and a glimmer of hope in the form of possible reforms and legislations that could restore order to a devastated region."
Once again, a journalist familiar with African politics, economics and culture tells a shocking story of widespread corruption, greed and bloody violence, this time in a region rich in tin and coltan, minerals used in the manufacture electronic devices.
As Africa Editor for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting at The Hague,Eichstaedt (Pirate State: Inside Terrorism at Sea, 2010; etc.) traveled around the eastern Congo giving workshops to train local journalists and talking to militia leaders, former child soldiers, businessmen, aid workers and victims. A two-chapter side journey into neighboring Sudan, which seems rather out-of-place here, demonstrates that ethnic rivalries and fighting over a country's resources is not unique to the Congo. However, the eastern Congo has become "the rape capital of the world"—and, with more than five million dead in the last decade, the site of "the deadliest human catastrophe since World War II." Eichstaedt's reporting reveals in grim detail how rival ethnic militias and the national Congolese army fight for control over the region's rich mines, how villagers are routinely slain with guns or machetes or by being burned alive, how pick-and-shovel miners are heavily taxed by unpaid soldiers and how rape has become a tactic of war. In their own words, his interviewees often provide unrealistic solutions to their predicament or show a calm acceptance of the chaos and violence around them. The answer, writes the author, is not simply a ban on "conflict minerals" as was recently instituted by the United States, or peace-keeping efforts by the United Nations; it must come from the Congolese people demanding responsible government. Eichstaedt does not offer much hope that it will happen soon.
The welter of unfamiliar names of places, organizations and people makes for slow reading (maps and a cast of characters would have helped), but the main stumbling block for many will be the sheer horror and hopelessness of it all.
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