Botswana and The Congo.
We recently blogged on the process of Beneficiation which is a strategy that is being used by several African diamond and mineral rich countries to benefit their citizens and dramatically raise their standard of living.
The opposite end of the spectrum, unfortunately, also exists, and it is The Congo.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) offers huge deposits of diamonds, gold, cobalt, copper, tin and coltan (an essential ingredient of cell phones.) The United States imported some $115.8 million in rough diamonds from the DRC during 2005. For the January through July period of 2006 the DRC has exported some $23.6 million in rough to the United States.
The country is also rich in coffee, palm oil, and rubber. Nonetheless, violence, preventable disease, and starvation claim 1,200 per day on average, according to MONUC (United Nations Mission in DR Congo.) The Associated Press reported September 27 that half the victims are children in this country of about 63 million. Statistics from July 2006 show 47 percent of the population had not yet reached the age of 14.
“The contradiction is that it’s one of the richest countries on the planet,” said Mario Zamorano of MONUC, which was the organization tapped with maintaining peace during DRC’s first democratic vote in 46 years this past July.
“All the elements are there: Copper, gold, and diamonds,” Zamorano said. “They are so rich and they are so poor.”
Political instability and strife have been staples of Congolese life for many years. Now another attempt at political stability is being attempted as the country inaugurated its new National Assembly on September 22. The MONUC representative in the DRC, William Lacy Swing, called the assembly a remarkable achievement after overseeing the organization’s most complex and most expensive transitional election process to date.
DRC’s presidential run-off election between President Joseph Kabila and vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba is set for October 29, 2006. Following some violence and incidents in the three days after the election in July the United Nations is preparing to curb any new strife as much as possible.
Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, called for extending the organization’s peace-keeping mission in the DRC through February 2007. Annan also requested “continued authorization to reinforce troop numbers when necessary.”
Annan’s recommendations came after the Security Council determined the need to maintain credible and transparent run-off elections in late October. He highlighted the challenges ahead, including the need for assistance in strengthening democratic institutions, promoting the rule of law and basic human rights, and providing security as well as in other areas.
MONUC has more than 18,000 uniformed personnel on the ground in the DRC, supported by some 3,600 civilian staff and volunteers, all of whom are helping the country rebuild after a six-year conflict that cost 4 million lives.
Let’ see if this time The Congo can get it’s act together.
References And Citations:
Blood Diamonds Facts And a Short Documentary – http://beyond4cs.com/loose-diamonds/blood-diamonds-controversy/
DiamondFacts.org – http://www.diamondfacts.org/index.php%3Foption%3Dcom_content%26view%3Darticle%26id%3D128%26Itemid%3D134%26lang%3Den