Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo women seek trade skills to avoid sex work

Democratic Republic of Congo women seek trade skills to avoid sex work


Afisa Kanyere, 19, stands by her small house with her two 
youngest brothers in Kanyabayonga, a town 
in Democratic Republic of Congo. 

KANYABAYONGA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Afisa Kanyere Kamate, seated in front of her tiny 16-square-meter (172-square-foot) house made entirely of tar-coated wooden planks, is focused on one worry: ensuring that her six younger siblings have food. At 19, she is their only caretaker.

To feed them, she has made a difficult choice.

“Most of the boys pay me 2,000 Congolese francs [about $1.50] for one quickie, and I ask 5,000 Congolese francs [nearly $4] per night,” Kanyere says.

In a week, she says, she can make 5,000 to 10,000 Congolese francs (nearly $4 to $8), enabling her to afford 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds) of cassava flour, a bottle of cooking oil and beans.

Kanyere and her brothers and sisters are among the estimated 1.5 million displaced from their homes in the DRC. Many come from conflict-torn areas in Lubero and Rutshuru territories seeking refuge here in Kanyabayonga, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of North Kivu’s provincial capital of Goma.

Kanyere and her siblings fled from her village of Kibirizi in Rutshuru, about 143 kilometers (nearly 89 miles) away, after her father’s body was found decapitated in September 2015.

Misfortune never comes alone. A few months later, her mother died of malaria, leaving behind four younger brothers and two younger sisters for Kanyere to care for.

“We’re seven children, and all of us live in a small, poorly maintained room,” Kanyere says. When it rains, she says, they squeeze themselves into one corner, because the roof leaks.

Kanyere laments the turn her life has taken, and she tries to protect her siblings from her work.

“There is nothing more embarrassing than working as a prostitute at home when I live with my younger siblings,” she says. “They stay with me the whole time. I’m obliged to sneak away for sex when a man solicits sexual services from me. When I have a client at night, I have to wait until the children fall deep asleep.”

Kanyere says men don’t want to marry her because they’re afraid of taking on the responsibility of raising her younger siblings.

“I feel like my life is a total mess. Worse still, my life is a living death. I am no different from a dead person,” she says.

An estimated 1.5 million people, like Kanyere and her brothers and sisters, who are internally displaced in the DRC are among almost 38 million internally displaced worldwide, according to Jose Barahona, Oxfam’s country director for DRC.

Women and children make up about 80 percent of refugees and are vulnerable to violence during times of migration and displacement, specifically where social structures are disintegrated by war, according a survey conducted by the Howard University School of Social Work.

Such has been the case in the DRC, which has seen 20 years of successive conflicts.

Maurice Muyayalo Kisolu, commander in charge of child protection and the fight against sexual violence for the Kirumba Police Department, says Kanyere is not alone in resorting to sex work for survival. Kisolu estimates that as many as 70 percent of displaced girls living in the town of Kirumba in North Kivu Province are trapped into making similar choices because incoming humanitarian aid is just not enough.

He says his unit was set up specifically to defend women and children, because they are often the hardest hit when conflicts and wars break out. “War-displaced people need to enjoy all the fundamental rights. And so, they have the right to life, protection, security, assistance, asylum [when fleeing from one country to another], housing and comfort,” he says.

Vaghen Masika, 24, a Kanyabayonga resident, says that the state of internally displaced girls is deplorable, especially for those who have lost their parents.

“As a result, they have to fend for themselves in many ways to survive,” she says.

She says a neighbor has chosen to turn to sex work to afford to eat and has forced her children into the sex trade as well. But even so, she says, “the proceeds were still not enough for survival.”

Kahindo Sikuli, a displaced girl, says some make desperate choices: “We’re spending our days roaming around aimlessly in camps. Some of us have managed to land jobs that help them cover their needs. Here, we’re faced with unemployment, leading us to turn to banditry and prostitution,” she says.

Kahindo Mwandu, leader of Mumaluk (Muungano Wa WAMAMA wa Lubero ya Kusini), an association of Congolese women who advocate for women and girls, calls on humanitarian organizations to teach displaced girls the basic trades, such as weaving, braiding and knitting, so that they can avoid resorting to sex work. Currently, there is no group in Kirumba offering these services to help the displaced, she says.

“There is a need for displaced girls to have centers to go to with their problems, to recount their challenges and be listened to for a solution,” Mwandu says.

Kanyere’s only wish is to be able to return home and find enough food for her siblings.
“I call on the government to restore peace throughout the territories of Rutshuru and Lubero, so that we can return home and dig our fields,” she says.

By Merveille Kavira Luneghe

DR Congo: UN seeks $64 million to tackle humanitarian crisis in Kasaï region

DR Congo: UN seeks $64 million to tackle humanitarian crisis in Kasaï region


Returned persons from Kasala village, Kasaï Province,
 awaiting food distribution by the NGO COPROMOR
 and Christian Aid.

The United Nations has appealed for $64.5 million to respond to the urgent needs of 731,000 people over the next six months in the Kasaï region, the latest “humanitarian hotspot” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“The Kasaï crisis is an acute crisis of massive proportions in a country that is already going through one of the world's most relentlessly acute humanitarian emergencies,” the Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC, Mamadou Diallo, said in Kinshasa.
“We are facing a new challenge that requires additional resources to respond to the needs of thousands of displaced people and host families as our current capacities are being outstripped,” he added.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than one million people are estimated to be currently displaced as the violence started in Kasaï Central and rippled across neighboring Kasaï, Kasaï Oriental, Lomami and Sankuru provinces.
Currently some 40 national and international humanitarian organizations are working across the five provinces to respond to the crisis, which was borne out of armed clashes that erupted in August 2016 between the Congolese army and a local militia group.
The appeal launched today will provide water, food, medicines and health services, basic household items, and provide protection services, among others, to minors, women who have suffered sexual violence, and other civilians who have been victim of violence.
In Kasaï Central province alone, the current humanitarian needs are 400 per cent above what humanitarian actors had planned for earlier this year.
“An effective response requires that new and fresh funding be allocated as humanitarian actors cannot afford to take away from their current operations in the eastern provinces to support the Kasaï crisis,” Mr. Diallo said.
More than four months into the year, the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan only received $66 million, or less than 10 per cent of the overall $748 million appeal.

Friday, 21 April 2017

1.5m children trapped in central Congo violence

1.5m children trapped in central Congo violence


Child soldiers: 1.5m children trapped in central 
Congo violence

UNICEF says no fewer than 1.5 million children are at risk due to violence in central Congo, including 600,000 who have been displaced from their homes.
Violence has mounted between the army and the Kamwina Nsapu militia since its leader, who opposed central government influence in parts of the Kasai region, was killed in fighting in August.
Tajudeen Oyewale, a UNICEF representative for Congo, who recently visited the area said children are enduring “horrific ordeals” in the Kasai region.
“Hundreds of children have been injured in the violence, with reports of children detained, raped, and even executed,” Oyewale added.
He said that no fewer than 300 children have been seriously injured, while more than 4,000 have been separated from their families.
The UN said about 2,000 children are being used by militias in the region, the statement added.
The world body said they are often used as military scouts or as guardians of objects believed to have magical powers.
UNICEF said no fewer than 350 schools have meanwhile been destroyed, while in the province of Kasai Central, one-third of health centres are no longer functional, UNICEF said.
UN investigators have documented 40 mass graves in Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental provinces since August.
Soldiers killed at least 74 people, including 30 children, during clashes with the Kamwina Nsapu in late March, according to reports gathered by UN investigators.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Kasai: More mass graves found in DR Congo

Kasai: More mass graves found in DR Congo


DR Congo's army has been fighting a militia group in 
the central Kasai region

Seventeen more mass graves have been found in the Democratic Republic of Congo's central Kasai region bringing the total found since last August up to 40, the UN says.
The region has been the "scene of clashes between soldiers and members of a local militia knosn as Kamuina Nsapu", the statement adds.
The government is fighting to put down a rebellion that began after a regional chief was killed.
Both sides have been accused of committing human rights violations.
UN investigators heard that at least 74 people, including 30 children, were killed in fighting at the end of last month.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the DR Congo government should take "meaningful steps, which to date have been lacking,  to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent, and independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties, and other abuses of justice".

By Dickens Olewe and Damian Zane

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Congo government returns tribal leader's body to sooth Kasai tensions

Congo government returns tribal leader's body to sooth Kasai tensions 


Congo's government on Saturday said it had returned the body of a tribal leader whose death last year triggered a conflict in Kasai Central province that has killed more than 400 people.

The return of the body of Kamuina Nsapu - the leader of a tribal militia by the same name - has been one of its key demands during a brutal conflict that started last July and worsened when Congolese forces killed Nsapu the following month.

In a statement, interior ministry spokesman Louis d'Or Balekalayi also said the government would recognise his successor Jacques Kabeya Ntumba as a customary chief. Failure to do this for Ntumba's predecessor was one cause of the uprising.

The fighting in Kasai has become the most serious threat to President Joseph Kabila, whose decision to stay in power even though his mandate ran out in December has stoked rebellion and lawlessness in different parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"His body was left with the family who buried him in his village on the same day," the statement said. "The family solemnly declared the end of the war, specifying that anyone who continues to do criminal or terrorist acts does not represent them."

It was not immediately possible to reach the family or any of the militia's leaders for a reaction. However, it was unclear whether this gesture by the government would sooth tensions.

Initially contained in one area, the rebellion has since spread to five of Congo's 26 provinces. The fighters operating under the name "Kamuina Nsapu" appear to do so independently and without a clear leadership structure, and some recent violence appears to have degenerated into ethnic score-settling.

Many of the dead have been dumped in mass graves, a violation of local customs.

Analysts fear growing violence in Congo could spark a repeat of the conflicts between 1996-2003, mostly in the east, in which millions died, mainly from hunger and disease. Dozens of armed groups continue to fight over natural resources and prey on the civilian population.

Two U.N. officials, one a U.S. citizen and one Swedish, and four Congolese accompanying them were kidnapped and killed by unknown assailants in Kasai-Central last month.
Congolese authorities said on Friday they had arrested two people suspected of involvement, but one of the prisoners has escaped.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Tim Cocks)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017



Le prince héritier, Tshisekedi II


Félix Tshisekedi mobilise toutes les ressources de l'héritage politique de son défunt papa, Etienne Tshisekedi, pour être  premier ministre au Congo. «Il n'a jamais été combattant des premières heures au sein du parti de son père, UDPS (Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social)» estiment ses détracteurs. Mais le fils à papa a gravi très vite tous les échelons jusqu’à devenir président de l'UDPS et du Rassemblement après la mort du leader Maximo.

Le prince Félix, le second de la génération des Tshisekedis ayant le sang de son papa qui coule dans ses veines, s'estime plus Tshisekediste que tous les autres membres de l'UDPS ou du Rassemblement. Car il est de la «race pure» des Tshisekedis ce qui s'explique par le lien du sang (Jus Sanguinis) et de droit politique hérité de son père (Jus Imperium).

C'est une consécration de la culture, dite de «Bana ya…» (en lingala qui signifie en francais les fils à papa), héritée de la période de la dictature du Maréchal Mobutu dont Joseph Kabila a assuré la continuité en remplaçant « son père » Laurent Désiré Kabila à la tête du pays en 2001. Dans une farce de la démocratie hérédo-monarchique, le droit du sang des héritiers de la République ou des fils à papa est devenu de plus en plus la mode au Congo. Le fils du sphinx de Limeté est aussi sphinx et a automatiquement droit à l’imperium.


En effet, les Tshisekedis sont connus pour leur passion de la primature malgré des multiples rendez-vous manqués, et leur rôle palliatif à accompagner et à légitimer la politique dictatoriale du Congo. Selon une source proche de l'AFDL (Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo), « Tshisekedi premier n'a jamais cherché à renverser la dictature de Mobutu mais plutôt voulait à tout prix être premier ministre de Mobutu ». Une primature que les Tshisekedis considèrent comme un acquis, de facto un droit naturel et historique transmis du père au fils.

Depuis les ententes d'Ibiza en Espagne entre l'UDPS et la MP (Majorité Présidentielle) jusqu'aux accords du 31 décembre 2016 orchestrés en majorité par Tshisekedi senior, l'objectif est d'arriver à un tandem des héritiers ou à un duo de deux princes (Kabila II & Tshisekedi II) à la tête du pays pour une transition soit disant pacifique et éviter l’apocalypse.

Avec les nominations successives de Samy Badibanga et puis Bruno Tshibala comme premier ministre, le prince de Limeté se voit rouler dans la farine par Kabila II. Il multiple des cris d'alarme pour un total respect des accords et du testament de son père. «On ne devient pas premier ministre par testament» s'en moque Lambert Mende, le ministre de la communication.


«Tshisekedi II a des Kamikazes, Kabila II a des milices»

Les militants –combattants de l'UDPS devant le siège 
du parti à Limité

La nomination de Tshibala comme premier ministre en application des accords de Saint Sylvestre, dont Kabila II n’a jamais signé, est perçu par Tshisekedi II comme "une trahison des ententes " alors que Kabila junior ne joue qu'avec le temps. Il sait qu'il n'organisera pas des élections en décembre 2017 comme prévu. Kabila II, n’ayant pas la légitimité de nommer un premier ministre selon les accords de CENCO (Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo), ne fait que nommer des non-officiels de l’UDPS et du RASSOP (Rassemblement de l’opposition en RDC) pour consolider son glissement. Et de ce fait, il n'est pas du tout prêt à tendre la main à Tshisekedi II de Limeté.

Mobutu disait «après moi, c'est le chaos»; Sans Tshisekedi II comme premier ministre, c'est le chaos pense-t-il ?
Tshisekedi II se bat pour son «droit» qu'il estime légitime en multipliant les marches, les villes mortes et lançant ses kamikazes dans les rues de Kinshasa pour être tués par les milices de Kabila II afin d’acquérir la primature. Ces militants-combattants de l’UDPS et du RASSOP, prêt à mourir, font maintenant la force de Félix Tshisekedi. Comme solution finale, Il suffit qu'un mot d'ordre soit donné pour que le pays soit paralysé en «Congo mort ».

En conclusion, Le peuple congolais, qui a beaucoup souffert des guerres, se retrouve aujourd'hui dans une guerre asymétrique entre deux héritiers de la République. Le pays ressemble à un match de Ping-pong entre deux dynasties où le peuple congolais, otage des fils à papa, est le dindon de la farce. Ce n'est pas la primature ni le respect des accords qui vont résoudre les problèmes du Congo. Le pays n'a pas besoin des hommes forts ou héritiers mais plutôt des institutions démocratiques fortes et stables pour sortir de cette impasse. Le Congolais, qui veut changer son quotidien, demande avec force la fin de la dictature des fils à papa, la paix et la sécurité avec une nouvelle génération des politiciens, en termes simples une gouvernance démocratique du pays.

Par Serge Egola et Ishiaba Kasonga
OCSN (Orion Congo Studies Network)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Human Rights Watch Testimony at Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on African Affairs and Global Health Policy on Dodd-Frank Section 1502

Human Rights Watch Testimony at Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on African Affairs and Global Health Policy on Dodd-Frank Section 1502


Testimony to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on African Affairs and Global Health Policy Regarding Dodd-Frank Section 1502

Chairman Flake, Ranking Member Booker and other members of the subcommittee,
Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify today on Dodd-Frank Section 1502 and its impact on addressing the trade in “Conflict Minerals.” Human Rights Watch has documented abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko and throughout the country’s vicious civil war and the violence and abuses that continue. 
Since 2005, we have documented the pernicious effect that the trade in gold has had on civilians in eastern Congo. Numerous armed groups, foreign-backed rebels, and at times the Congolese army have killed, raped, pillaged, and forcibly conscripted child soldiers as they sought to gain or maintain control of lucrative gold mines, which in turn helped finance their abusive movements. We’ve also documented how a major mining company paid a rebel group to explore for gold in its concession area in 2005.
It is for these reasons that Human Rights Watch supported and continues to support Dodd-Frank 1502. We never saw it as a panacea to stop the abuses or violence in Congo completely. Rather, we saw it as an important tool to help address a specific goal:  stopping the flow of funds to abusive armed groups who were exploiting Congo’s lucrative mining resources through increased transparency and accountability. 
Today, we are here because Dodd-Frank 1502 may be suspended or even revoked. We know legislation can sometimes be a blunt tool and that it can have unintended consequences. With that in mind, we welcome a discussion on how Section 1502 can fulfill its objectives more efficiently; however, we strongly believe that its suspension or revocation would be damaging for security, human rights, and for responsible companies. To be crystal clear: if the president suspends the law or if Congress revokes it, we believe that the repercussions would be very serious.
This hearing comes at a critical time in Congo. Over the past two years, government officials and security forces have carried out a brutal campaign of repression against those opposed to President Joseph Kabila’s efforts to stay in power beyond the December 19, 2016 end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit. Scores of peaceful protesters have been killed, pro-democracy activists and opposition leaders have been imprisoned, and media outlets have been shuttered. After significant pressure from the international community —including targeted US sanctions against top officials and other strong measures backed by this Congress—President Kabila made some important concessions in an end-of-the year deal mediated by the Catholic Church.
This agreement calls for presidential elections to be held by the end of this year and says clearly that there will be no changes to the constitution or a referendum to allow Kabila to run for a third term. Yet implementation of the deal has stalled, as violence between militia groups and the Congolese security forces have escalated in many parts of the country, along with an alarming increase in human rights violations. Some of these situations are directly linked to Kabila staying in power beyond the end of his constitutional mandate. Kabila has agreed to hold elections and step down from power, and the prospects for stability likely hinge on whether he abides by that commitment. Continued US engagement and strong pressure on Kabila to do so is critical. 
Last month, two members of the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalán, from Sweden, were killed while investigating large-scale human rights abuses in Congo’s central Kasai region. It remains unclear who was responsible for the murders. The Group of Experts has been instrumental over the years in exposing the links between the trade in natural resources, armed groups, sanctions-busting, and the violence in Congo.
In this context, suspending or eliminating Dodd-Frank 1502 would make an already explosive situation in Congo worse. Abusive armed groups, factions of the security forces, and other opaque mafia-like networks allegedly linked to government officials could then easily return to the lucrative mines in eastern Congo to finance their activities. This could lead to new security problems throughout the volatile region—where some of Congo’s nine neighboring countries have illegally benefitted from the country’s vast mineral wealth. And it could also create direct security risks for the United States, which has a clear interest in promoting a more stable and peaceful central Africa region.
Suspending Dodd-Frank 1502 would also harm responsible American companies that have embraced the law and the principles that underpin it, including some of this country’s most successful and well-known companies, such as Apple, Intel, and Tiffany. They and others would suddenly be placed at a competitive disadvantage against other companies that prefer to operate opaquely in a way that could fund armed groups. Eliminating the rule would punish responsible companies and reward irresponsible ones by creating a “race to the bottom,” legalizing opaque sourcing of conflict minerals while disadvantaging companies that choose to keep their supply chains clean.
In the absence of 1502, it is possible that civil society groups could end up pressing for targeted sanctions on the Congolese minerals sector if it becomes clear that abusive armed groups are profiting from this trade. Such targeted sanctions are typically the approach the international community has taken in recent years to address similar problems. While understandable, this is a much more draconian approach than the transparency and auditing procedures 1502 require. These are serious consequences for Congo, for major US companies, and for human rights.   
Suspending 1502 Will Make It Easier to Fund Armed Groups Secretly
The fundamental purpose of Dodd-Frank 1502 is to keep money out of the hands of armed groups that trade in and profit from certain minerals. Human rights groups, responsible companies, and the US government have shared this goal for many years. It is important not to lose this aspect of the law: it is a rare instance where key institutions in and out of government agree on what the problems is, want to stop it, and have managed to put a law in place to help do it. That is something Congress and the administration should support.
Without the law, it would be easier for abusive armed groups to fund themselves secretly, whichcould help to further destabilize parts of Congo. In mid-March, Bloomberg news reported that the Congolese Minister of Mines, Martin Kabwelulu, wrote the US Securities and Exchange Commission, warning that eliminating 1502 would lead to an “escalation in the activities of non-state armed groups.” The US has sought for decades to help de-escalate these activities; removing a tool that can help do that undercuts longstanding US foreign policy objectives.
This problem could be exacerbated by the administration’s possible budget cuts for UN peacekeeping in Congo and by possible further cuts to other foreign assistance to Congo. The combination of suspending or eliminating 1502 while cutting support to peacekeeping and other foreign assistance could make it easier for abusive armed groups to make money from conflict minerals while simultaneously reducing funds to entities meant to curtail conflict and foster stability.
Considering Congress’ longstanding interest in Congo, the fragile situation on the ground, and the billions of dollars the US has spent on peacekeeping efforts in the country, this scenario would be extraordinarily counterproductive to US geopolitical and security interests.
While imperfect, Dodd Frank has already had some tangible positive effects for the people of eastern Congo and those seeking greater transparency. Since 2012, mining at the Kalimbi tin mine in Nyabibwe, South Kivu, for example, has had a functional traceability scheme, which allows for the continuous production of tin that benefits the local workers, and not the abusive armed groups or corrupt army or government officials.  
Global Witness reported that in 2012, the Congolese government suspended the operations of two Chinese companies because they failed to carry out proper due diligence and suspected they may be sourcing from armed groups.  But it is troubling that the same year, Global Witness reported that two Congolese army officers were caught trying to smuggle more than 1,000 pounds of minerals, including coltan. The government refused to press charges, but the officer who stopped them and tried to stop the smuggling was suspended from his post. At present, however, we have some indications that Congolese government officials are starting to take actions to prevent mineral wealth from illegally profiting armed groups or army officers.
It is also important to remember the types of groups that could be emboldened and enriched without the transparency and systems Dodd-Frank requires. Human Rights Watch and others have documented the abuses by several armed groups that benefited from this trade and the harm they have caused. This includes the armed group known as the Nduma Defense of Congo-Renové (NDC-R), one of the most abusive groups operating in eastern Congo that benefits greatly from the uncontrolled and illicit exploitation of gold there. Traceability efforts so far have had a much greater impact on tin, tantalum, and tungsten than on gold. The NDC-R has committed serious human rights violations, including the killings of dozens of civilians and recruitment of children over the past two years.
Last month, my colleagues were in eastern Congo’s Walikale territory in North Kivu and met with several former child soldiers from NDC-R and miners. They told us how the group led by Guidon Shimiray Mwissa is systemically taxing the lucrative gold trade in dozens of mining sites. By holding a monopoly on things like alcohol and cigarettes in the mining pits and illegally taxing those who work in or near the mines, Guidon is making over $20,000 a month. According to some of his former cadres, he’s also allegedly trading gold for weapons.  
Suspending Dodd-Frank 1502 would make it easier for other abusive armed groups and corrupt officials to enrich themselves the way Guidon is by making the trade even more opaque and easier to do business with armed groups. This would make an already bad situation even worse.
Suspending or Eliminating Dodd-Frank 1502 Will Disadvantage Responsible US Companies
Suspending or revoking Dodd-Frank 1502 would hurt some of the United States’ leading companies, such as Tiffany, Intel, and Apple.  These firms have taken meaningful steps to keep their supply chains free from links to abuses in Congo and would be placed at a competitive disadvantage against companies inclined to operate less responsibly. 
Responsible companies have worked hard to comply with the requirements of 1502. In March 2016, Apple announced that 100 percent of its conflict mineral supply chain had been audited to ensure compliance with Dodd-Frank 1502. That move was widely praised by human rights groups. While its supplies were not fully conflict-free, it has achieved the kind of oversight needed to eliminate conflict minerals from its supply chain. It took the company about six years of steady work on the ground and with its suppliers to meet this goal. But Apple is not just focusing on its legal requirements; it is also trying to clean up its cobalt supply chain after facing scrutiny over problems in it.
Intel began to examine conflict minerals in 2008 and has reported that its microprocessors have been conflict free since 2013. The company has said that it was on track to make its entire product base conflict-free. It took several years for the company to get control over its supply chains and build the capacity to source from properly audited mines.  
Also, Intel commissioned an important study on Millennials’ attitudes towards conflict minerals. The survey provides useful insights into the minds of key consumers. 97 percent of those surveyed believed that companies should “act in a way that benefits society.” Almost 70 percent would avoid companies that they think are not socially responsible. About 70 percent cared about conflict minerals once they learned about them, and a similar percentage said that how a company dealt with conflict minerals would influence whether they bought its products. Dodd-Frank 1502 gives consumers the information they need to make decisions, helps companies meet those expectations, and isolates companies that do not.
Tiffany & Co., one of the world’s most recognizable and prestigious jewelry companies, has also invested a considerable amount of time and resources to ensure that it monitors its supply chain to exclude conflict minerals.  It conducts detailed reviews of its global supply chains.  It works, like other companies, with programs to support conflict-free smelters and other initiatives. The company has made the investment to ensure its products are conflict-free.
Each of these companies is an American icon and a leader in their industries. And each of them does not want Dodd-Frank 1502 or comparable regulation to go away. 
When it became apparent that 1502 might be suspended, Tiffany issued a statement noting “we firmly believe that the continued existence of Federal regulation that addresses the sourcing of conflict minerals provides an important framework for industry, laying the foundation for protection of human rights and responsible sourcing efforts in Congo and beyond. We urge Congress to support legislation that effectively promotes due diligence and transparency for the sourcing of all conflict metals and gemstones.”
Richline Group, a jeweler owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, has also come out in support of 1502 and noted that “Section 1502 has proven to be an important and effective first step in the effort to create a conflict-free mining industry in Congo that benefits legitimate business rather than extortion and violence” and said “we fully support the continued implementation of Section 1502.”
From personal experience, I know that the CEO of one of these companies had strong reservations against Dodd-Frank 1502 when it first became law, but ultimately saw that it was something the company could and would implement it in part because it was far less costly and laborious than he originally expected and because it was the right thing for the company to do. 
The support from major companies highlights a perverse consequence that suspending or repealing Dodd-Frank would cause:  it would create an uneven playing field placing major US companies at a competitive disadvantage relative to companies that did not want to disclose their supply chains, or worse still, do not care whether their activities led to the secret funding of armed groups in Congo. In this sense repealing 1502 would create a perverse incentive to behave less responsibly, and would harm the efforts of responsible companies. Tiffany, Apple, Intel, and Richline have said they believe keeping conflict minerals out of their supply chain is the right thing to do and that they will continue to do it. But without regulation, they will bear a steep cost for being responsible. Dodd-Frank levels the playing field and makes sure responsible companies are not penalized for doing the right thing while requiring others to meet minimum standards. 
Additionally, 129 investors with assets worth approximately $5 trillion under management have also urged the US government to keep the law in place and to ensure its continued implementation and enforcement.
The US should maintain the same path it has successfully pursued over decades:  be the first country to enact a strong law ensuring that companies act responsibly and then work diligently to make sure others do the same. This is what the US did with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It passed the law in 1977, worked to get other countries to pass similar statutes, and now there is an important global anti-corruption regime that includes many countries with strong anti-corruption laws of their own. Multilateral institutions like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UN have also developed their own standards. The US played a leading role in these efforts—in part because it led by example.
This approach has also been true with 1502. US adoption of 1502 led the EU and OECD, for example, to start developing their own standards on conflict minerals that will, at least in the case of the EU, apply to a broad swath of companies beyond US jurisdiction. Just this March, the European Parliament approved new conflict minerals regulations. That approach creates a race to the top where US companies lead, versus suspending 1502 and creating a race to the bottom where US companies are hurt.
Five years after the rules went into force, there is progress. There are more than 200 conflict-free smelters and major companies, as noted previously, are working towards full compliance and do not want the rule to end. And other jurisdictions are developing their own, similar, rules. 
Internationally, the London Bullion Market Association and the Dubai Multi-Commodities Center are putting policies into place to deal with illicit funds derived from minerals. In Congo, the International Tin Supply Chain Initiative is also working to support company due diligence. These are relatively new initiatives and their efficacy is not yet known, but they are examples of the momentum 1502 is creating and what could be lost if is eliminated.
On the ground, significant parts of Congolese civil society generally support the law. As Dr. Denis Mukwege wrote in the New York Times in 2015, “A conflict-free minerals industry would greatly benefit the people of Congo and contribute to ending the unspeakable violence they have endured for years. The legislative tools to help make this a reality are available to international policy makers, but they must be enacted and enforced.” Those views are echoed by a number of civil society groups.
Challenges with Dodd-Frank 1502
There are very compelling reasons to keep 1502, but we do not want to downplay the fact that this law has had its challenges, claim that implementation of the law has been perfect, or suggest that it is the sole answer to conflict and abuse in eastern Congo.
During the period after Dodd Frank became law in 2010 and before its implementing rules were finalized in 2012, uncertainty, misinformation, and other factors led to adverse consequences on the ground. That uncertainty before the final rules were issued led to a de facto boycott as companies avoided sourcing from Congo. There is also evidence that mineral-related violence during that time did not subside. 
However, those problems are not solely due to Dodd-Frank 1502. The Kabila government exacerbated the negative economic impacts when it ordered a six-month halt to all mining in the Kivus in 2010. Between 2010 and 2012, the period between enactment of 1502 and implementation of its final rules, companies chose to boycott Congo since nothing in the law required that companies stop doing business with Congo. These measures, coupled with the uncertainty over Dodd-Frank’s final rules, created problems.
There are still reports of problems facing artisanal miners ranging from low prices affecting artisanal coltan miners.
Another key issue is that US companies are still slow to comply with the law. In 2015, Global Witness and Amnesty International reported that as much as 80 percent of covered companies were not properly disclosing and auditing their conflict minerals supply chain. This is an important area for growth and development—as it could help strengthen the positive impact of the law and enable a more level playing field for all companies down the road.
The Way Forward
We support constructive proposals to ensure Dodd-Frank 1502 is more efficient and effective.  Suspending or scrapping the law will not do this and will instead disadvantage responsible companies, while likely creating more instability in parts of Congo and making it easier for abusive armed groups to pay for their activities. 
If industry groups or companies have specific ideas on how to make 1502 more efficient or effective, you should make sure they are sharing them. There are already indications that costs of implementing 1502 are decreasing significantly as new tools are developed to make it easier to comply. ELM Sustainability Partners did an assessment of the law and found that the total industry costs are about 15-26 percent of the original costs that the SEC reported. Meanwhile, eastern Congo reported record highs for conflict-free exports of tin and tantalum in 2016.
You should also request a study—perhaps from the GAO—on how to promote conflict-free minerals on the ground, and stronger incentives to promote and reward responsible companies.
Unfortunately, the main industry critics, namely the National Association of Manufacturers, have not put forward specific proposals that would tweak 1502 to make it more effective. Many organizations are regularly discussing implementation with key companies and have listened closely to their concerns and challenges.
As a general principal, we believe that responsible companies in any sector should be rewarded for safeguarding human rights in their operations and others should be incentivized to do the same. Broadly, the cost of capital should be lower for responsible compliant companies than noncompliant ones and the opportunities for responsible companies should be greater. 
In that context, we would encourage you to support proposals that have been made by industry associations to advantage 1502 compliant companies in government procurement and efforts by responsible investors to favor and support those companies over others. And while we are not experts on tax policy, it is worth Congress and others examining how to use tax credits or comparable incentives to help support 1502 implementation because it could help lower the costs of implementation for companies.
Finally, we suggest Congress encourage efforts to support and promote conflict-free smelters on the ground. The principal way to do this is to make sure more companies are complying and sourcing from responsible mining and smelting sources. Given that the US is still the largest donor to the World Bank, it would be worth examining how that institution can help the Congolese government and industry grow a conflict-free market.
The situation in Congo is complex. But it is highly likely that suspending Dodd-Frank 1502 or eliminating it will contribute to greater instability, create a competitive disadvantage for responsible companies, and it could create a troubling paradox where, as US aid to Congo and UN peacekeeping may decline, the opportunity for abusive armed groups to make money off from conflict minerals will increase. The US would also fall behind its peers on an issue where it set the global example–this is not what Congress should seek to encourage or support.  
Instead, we hope the administration and Congress will seek to refine 1502, support responsible companies, and look at holistic approaches to keeping conflict mineral revenues out of the hands of abusive armed groups, whether they be militias, rebels, mafias, or government.

Human Rights Watch