Tag Archives: KONY 2012

Coltan, Electronics and Bloodshed

Coltan is a rare mineral used in the production of tantalum capacitors – a component of many electronic devices. An estimated 80% of the world’s coltan reserves are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2003 a UN security council report condemned the illegal mining and smuggling of coltan ore by militias from neighbouring countries; Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.


The FDLR rebels – comprising of members of the Hutu Interahamwe, who were responsible for the brutal butchering of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide, having subsequently fled to the DRC – are reported to be using valuable minerals obtained in their territories in eastern DRC in exchange for weaponry. These minerals wind up in western electronic goods. Since their occupation of the DRC, the FDLR have been involved in killing government troops and civilians in Busurungi, as well as in many other villages, and have been reported to have carried out mass rape and sexual violence.


The FDLR are by no means the only group known to profit from the minerals of eastern Congo. Bosco Ntaganda otherwise known as “the Terminator”, is reported to control the Mungwe and Fungamwaka mines, and profits from mineral exploitation at Nyabibwe, and taxation at Rubaya (see here). Ntaganda has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, including the use of child soldiers (KONY 2012 supporters might feel a twinge of painful irony here).


Furthermore, these mines have been reported to exploit children in slave-like conditions (See below):


Much of the coltan (one of the many minerals that these violent criminals profit from) is exported to China – which then goes into their electronic goods, which we in the West consume in blissful ignorance. The point of this post is not to make you feel guilty for possessing electronic goods, the demand for which is contributing to the territorial conflicts in the mineral rich eastern DRC. The point is to get you to think about what we as consumers can do about this. I think that we need to demand evidence that the coltan used in our mobile phones and other electronic devices is not being sourced from conflict regions. We need to do what we can to raise awareness about these issues, and need to make producers aware that their exploitation of bloody conflict ridden regions will not go unnoticed and unchallenged.


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Let’s Talk About Kony

As most of you are probably aware there is a propaganda film circulating the internet at the moment, with the aim of making Joseph Kony famous (although I think ‘infamous’ would have been a much more appropriate term for the film makers to have used). Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock for the last week or so, you probably by now know a bit about what Kony has done, and why there is such a fuss about him, so I won’t go into much depth about who he is and what he has done.


The film appears to advocate peaceful action, which suggests that the aim is to capture rather than kill Kony, however no mention of how this might be achieved is put forth. I think it is safe to say that someone as corrupt and evil as Kony would not give himself up without a fight, and thus the first problem – which is left completely unanswered by the film – is how would you go about capturing Kony whilst he is using his child soldiers to fend off his would-be captors? He is unlikely to want to turn himself in, given his track record, so what is one to do other than attack him along with his child bodyguards? This difficult problem is completely abandoned in the film, in favour of over simplifications and appeals to emotion.


Therein also lies a major contradiction in this film too, it seems to advocate for a peaceful solution – yet it’s main slogan is ‘stop at nothing’ which presumably translates in to ‘kill him if you have to’. Now I’m not saying that one has to advocate either a peaceful or forceful solution, however I do feel that consistency is important. If you’re for peaceful action then presumably you wouldn’t stop at nothing, you’d stop before it gets violent. Most people are so drawn in by the emotional appeals when they watch this film that they do not see such a glaring contradiction. It’s hard to imagine that the film makers themselves could have over looked such a thing however.


The other thing that I find troubling about this film is it’s uncritical support of the UPDF (Ugandan People’s Defence Force) who themselves have the age limit for joining their ranks set as low as 13 years old (condemned by many as being military use of children, precisely the charge levelled against Kony), and are also accused of rape and looting. Now this ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ attitude in this case is misguided, and I think that the film makers are unjustified in supporting the UPDF simply because they are equipped and prepared to take on Kony.


There is no explanation of the situation in which Kony adopted his position, there is no real idea put forth as to how we might capture Kony without harming any of his child bodyguards. The whole film hinges on the simplistic idea of Kony being the bad guy – he is bad to be sure – however, it is utterly naive to propose that the problems in Central Africa will cease once the bad guy is finally captured – which is the idea you get from the film. Things are far more complex than this film makes out. What happens after Kony is captured is not even hinted at, other than some idealistic notion that these kid soldiers will be happily reunited with their parents. Personally, I am doubtful that this would put an end to problems in the region. It is put forth rather condescendingly that the situation is so simplistic that even a child ‘gets it’, however this simply is not true, a guy doesn’t just turn up and start kidnapping children for soldiers and sex slaves without some pretty complicated causal factors behind it – none of which are mentioned in the film itself. Any film which treats a complex situation as though it is overly simple should be viewed with caution in my opinion.


In conclusion I would urge anyone who reads this not to share this film, and to certainly not give money to these film makers. There are plenty of charities who are dedicated to helping with the problems in Africa, I would urge you to look into those, rather than to put money towards a bunch of film makers.

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