By Tracie Aylmer
Many of you may wonder why the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – a country far away in deepest Africa and literally a world apart from Australia – is an important topic.
Well they are not as far apart as one would believe.
With a little bit of digging (thanks to my work on International Criminall Court submissions), concerns about the DRC have bubbled to the surface as have its relationship to the Australian government.
The DRC is rich in mining resources. There are more mining licenses given to Australian mining companies than any other country in the world. There have also been several cases of human rights abuses since 2004. While Australia enjoys some of the most thorough protections in the world for employees of mining companies, it’s a whole different story when it comes to Africa. It appears that human rights abuses are ongoing, with no end in sight because African governments and corruption have a strong bond.
I know that Australians don’t like to think that human rights abuses could be carried on in their name by an Australian government. It’s harrowing to think that our taxpayer dollars could be helping continue the abuse. This is not a blame game. Australians don’t know what the governments for the past 12 years have been doing. They have deliberately been kept in the dark. The government should be forced into explaining why they have decided to continually allow for this to happen. Money should not be everything.
The UN Security Council does not believe that money is everything. In fact, their most recent Resolution about the DRC shows that it’s not just arms that the UNSC is talking about. They want a stop to all methods of abuse, including child employment and disintegration of human rights. They want all organisations to take a step back from the DRC, or act in a humane manner towards the people of the DRC.
The sanctions against the DRC, according to the Australian government, are basically just for arms and weapons. This is untrue. While arms and weapons are being sanctioned by the UN, the sanctions go much further. To just talk about one aspect of the sanctions means that the Australian government is intent on ensuring that mining companies exist in the DRC, even if the companies are working with rebel forces. What the government refuses to see, won’t matter to them.
The DRC government is well known for being corrupt and accepting anything and everything in order to keep the money flowing into their back pockets, including accepting licenses for Australian mining companies. They have accepted payments for the mining of products such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, particularly in the North and South Kivu areas, which are the most resourced areas in the country.
While the International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA) has a firm belief that there is a bi-lateral agreement between Australia and the DRC similar to many other bi-lateral agreements, there in fact isn’t one. In fact, Australia is advertising that – apart from aspects of humanitarian aid – there is nothing untoward with Australia’s dealings with the DRC. This is far from reality.
The AAMEG was set up by the previous CEO of Anvil Mining Limited before it was sold to MMG. Just prior to this sale, Anvil Mining had been exposed for a mining disaster in the DRC which then led to little culpability. MMG still mines in the area today, in the southern areas of DRC. Other members can be seen here. This is the most extensive list that can be found in relation to interactions between Australia and Africa. It is easy to see where Australian mining companies are located by comparing a general map to the fact sheet. Some of the areas where the mining companies are situated are in well known conflict areas, particularly South Kivu. This country is in extreme poverty, yet the mining companies are running rampant around the country, picking up whatever profit it can find, to the detriment of those most in need.
Atrocities are being committed on a daily basis in the eastern part of the DRC yet Australian mining companies are still willing to do business there. Nothing has been stated by the Australian government in relation to the war-like conditions and humanitarian dilemmas within the DRC, nor of the ICC and UN Security Council investigations. It is like the Australian government has decided to ignore what is going on, with the likelihood that Australian mining companies are part of the problem, in lieu of profit.
While the USA has implemented the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act in order to ensure that conflict minerals are not being used, the run-off effect with Australia has either been very slow or non-existent. To explain why we need to regard this situation with much more scrutiny, we need to understand one major thing about the minerals being mined in the DRC – they are used in our phones, computers and other devices.
We need to become aware of what we are buying so we aren’t inadvertently taking part in the atrocities occurring in DRC, that are in actual fact being investigated at the International Criminal Court as well as the UN Security Council on top of the sanctions that are in place that aren’t being properly discussed by our own government.
In short, our government is breaching UN Security Council sanctions against a country in dire trouble, all for the benefit of so few. We should be disgusted that we have such little knowledge of what’s actually going on. The apathy within our community needs to stop, for our benefit as well as those overseas.
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