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|December 1, 2009|
As most people now know, gold revenues as well as profits from the mining of tin, copper, and coltan, which is used in computers and cell phones are helping to purchase the weapons and fund the rampage that is tearing apart the Congo and destroying millions of lives.
These minerals have fueled the deadliest war since World War II . Since 1998 more than 5 million people have perished in Congo. Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been raped and at least one million terrified people are continually on the run from the various militia. I have asked victims who their attackers are but sometimes they know only that they were ' armed men in uniforms". They could be the Tutsi rebel group ( CNDP), or the unpaid, armed and unleashed Congolese army, or the Mai-mai a self proclaimed militia with no particular agenda other than to follow the army, or the most chillingly brutal of all, the former Hutu genocidaires ( FDLR),
Homes, villages and fields are burned by these groups to terrorize the people and to strengthen their grip on areas containing the region's minerals. Many people I spoke to had moved as many as 10 times. But in North Kivu nowhere is safe.
For a dollar a day, destitute men and children dig deep in the pits in search of the tiny pieces of gold which rebels smuggle through Uganda into Dubai.
Years ago, the international community banned the sale of blood diamonds, but the same has not happened with gold. While the other minerals also help to fund the violence, gold plays a large role, and the jewelry industry is now on the hot seat for not having developed a universal system to track the source of gold used for jewelry. One percent of the world's gold comes from the Congo, but that equals at least $300 million a year. Enough to fuel the violence for decades to come.
Only Tiffany has distanced itself from conflict gold. Under questioning by 60 Minutes, Wal-Mart agreed to trace the source of 10 percent of its gold by next year. Of course tracking the source of minerals will require a concerted effort but as we have seen with diamond trade, it can be done. I think Wal-Mart should aspire to do better than that 10%.
The Kimberley Process < http://www.kimberleyprocess.com> was set up to stem the flow of conflict diamonds and was a joint effort between governments and the industry. A similar effort must be made for gold.