Posts Tagged ‘Congo’

As most mobile phones contain coltan, it’s not too dramatic to say there’s blood on your cell phone – the blood of Congolese workers who are dying in their hundreds of thousands in a conflict that continues to claim many lives. There’s no doubt the demand for coltan is financing the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and helping to promote the evil that is child/slave labor.

                                                             Cell phones in all their innocence.

Many tens of thousands of children in the DRC are employed as miners – oftentimes in coltan mines. The work is primitive, dirty and dangerous.

In a chapter headed Blood Minerals, we address this pressing issue in our book THE ORPHAN CONSPIRACIES: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy. Here’s an excerpt:

Workers dig large craters in riverbeds to access the coltan. They then mix water and mud in big tubs to encourage the heavy coltan to settle on the bottom – much like gold miners did panning and sluicing for gold in years gone by. The mines management calls it child labor and officially employs children as young as 12 for this work; the outside world views it as slave labor, which is exactly what it is of course.

Child labor = slave labor in the DRC.

In an October 31, 2010 article by the leading Pakistani media outlet The Express Tribune, columnist Fatima Najm asks if “Pakistan’s 100 million cell phone users know their devices may be soaked in Congolese blood”.

Najm says within each of those phones are small amounts of coltan that add up to a lucrative illegal trade. “The explosive growth in the wireless industry means that demand for these tin ores collectively results in the rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of innocent Congolese people a year”.

The columnist points out that Congo is resource-rich, and its mighty river system has the potential to power all of Africa’s electricity needs. “Experts say stability in Congo could translate into peace and progress for all of Africa, but at least five neighboring countries have proxy militias battling each other in Congo for control of valuable tin ores”.

Najm makes an interesting comparison between Congolese coltan and diamonds, advising it’s logical to assume that “given the widespread violence attributed to coltan…one would imagine it would be destined for the same sort of notoriety as blood diamonds”.

Alas, not so, it would seem. ‘Blood diamonds’ obviously sounds a whole lot sexier than ‘blood coltan’ to Western media, moviegoers and the general public.

Primary image for Blood Diamond Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond the movie and star Leonardo DiCaprio made blood diamonds “sexy”.

Predictably, smart phone manufacturers and the like have been quick to distance themselves from the whole murky business. Some publish disclaimers, denying that they source coltan from militia’s operating in the DRC; many claim the supply chain for coltan mined in the DRC is so complex it’s impossible to ascertain whether it has been legally or illegally mined and supplied.

To be fair, several high profile manufacturers in the US and elsewhere are sourcing their coltan from outside the DRC and, indeed, outside central Africa until such time as the legitimacy of mining operations there can be more clearly established. However, they’re in the minority.

Cell phone consumers and others have long been questioning the legitimacy of products. For the most part, it appears their questions are falling on deaf ears. Perhaps it’s time to ask more questions – and ask them louder.

There has been a campaign in recent years to try to force the big multinational companies to disclose whether or not they use Congolese conflict minerals. However, it’s often impossible to prove where such minerals come from.

Just as crafty banksters frequently transfer vast sums of money between various offshore tax havens to conceal their money trail, corporations that profit from ultra-cheap Congolese conflict minerals have middle men – usually warlords – who smuggle minerals from country to country so it’s extremely difficult to trace their origins.

Convoluted smuggling routes make source of conflict minerals hard to trace.

Of course, the problem of conflict minerals isn’t limited to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; it exists throughout much of the African continent. Equally, the problem isn’t limited to Africa.

Read more in The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy: http://www.amazon.com/The-Orphan-Conspiracies-Conspiracy-Theories-ebook/dp/B00J4MPFT6/

A book that’s for the common people…the 99%.

 

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In The Orphan Uprising, the ninth-born orphan’s idyllic lifestyle is shattered when his young son is abducted by operatives and dispatched to underground medical laboratories for scientific testing and experimentation. This explosive conclusion to The Orphan Trilogy resumes five years after book one, The Ninth Orphan, ends.

Welcome Home Soldier Reviews calls this novel “A heart tearing, mind splitting, gut churning crusade.”

The Orphan Uprising ebook cover

Having eluded his former masters at the Omega Agency and escaped his past life as an operative, Nine has married his soul mate, Isabelle. They’ve carved out a new life for themselves, off the grid, in the remote islands of French Polynesia.

The contented couple have a five-year-old son, Francis, who is a chip off the old block and who has inherited his father’s unique DNA. Francis will soon have a sister as Isabelle is about to give birth to a baby girl.

Their idyllic lifestyle is shattered when Francis is abducted by operatives in the employ of the Omega Agency, the shadowy organization that brought Nine into the world and once controlled every aspect of his life. The terrified boy with the unique DNA is dispatched to one of Omega’s underground medical laboratories for scientific testing and experimentation.

Nine is desperate to find Francis before Omega can harm him. He soon finds he’s up against his fellow orphans – all elite operatives as he once was – who are under orders to kill him on sight. To overcome them, he must call on all his former training and skills. His search takes him around the world – from Tahiti to America, Germany, Greenland and the Congo.

To add to Nine’s worries, he has a serious heart condition that requires immediate surgery. The clock is ticking and he knows he’s on borrowed time. It’s a race against the clock to find his son before Omega can harm the boy – and before his heart gives out. 

 

Here’s what Amazon reviewers are saying about The Orphan Uprising:

★★★★★ “The Law and Order like twists keep you on the edge of your seat. An extreme roller coaster ride of emotions awaits the reader.” -My Scribe World

★★★★★ “A Finale Worthy of Your Attention” -Greg Kuhn (author & quantum physicist)

★★★★★ “Great end to a great series” -Lynelle Clark (author of ‘A Pirate’s Wife’)

★★★★ “Does not disappoint” -C9C Reviews

★★★★★ “A well-written and suspense-filled thriller” -J.B. DiNizo (author of ‘Comings and Goings’)

★★★★★ “A heart tearing, mind splitting, gut churning crusade.” -WelcomeHomeSoldier Reviews

★★★★★ “Fast paced action and an extremely thought provoking premise.” -Phoenix Book Review 

The Orphan Uprising is available via Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BFC66DM/

 

Happy reading! -Lance & James

 

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Ever wonder why peace in certain countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo is never achieved no matter how many thousands of international peacekeepers are sent?

The answer may be that despite appearances, the world’s powers-that-be don’t actually want peace in those countries to be achieved any time soon.

Engaging in diplomatic talks and sending in UN peacekeepers is just a farce, apparently. According to our research, it’s far more lucrative for the global elite to keep wars going so the invaders can plunder resources for as long as they can. If we are correct in this analysis, then maybe wars like Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam were not about winning, but something else. Something much more sinister.

More than any other region on the planet, Africa’s probably the best example of these vicious, imperialistic strategies. Unfortunately for Africa it has many, many resources the outside world wants, needs and will kill to get its hands on. Resources like its vast water reserves, unlimited land, oil and precious metals such as gold, diamonds, cobalt and uranium to name a few. Not to mention the continent’s wildlife and cheap human labor.

U2’s lead singer Bono possibly summarized it best in a 2004 speech he gave at the University of Pennsylvania when he said, “Africa needs justice as much as it needs charity.”

In our conspiracy thriller novel The Ninth Orphan, we wrote the following pertinent paragraphs about the African continent:

As the seemingly well-intentioned French journalist spoke about Africas scarcity and its limited resources, Nine smiled to himself almost condescendingly. He considered such statements an absolute joke. Africa did not, nor did it ever have, limited resources.

Nine knew something the journalist obviously didnt: Africa was the most abundantly resourced continent on the planet bar none. Like the despots who ruled much of the region, and the foreign governments who propped them up, he knew there was more than enough wealth in Africas mineral resources such as gold, diamonds and oil not to mention the land that nurtured these resources for every man, woman and child.

He thought it unfortunate Africa had never been able to compete on a level playing field. The continents almost unlimited resources were the very reason foreigners had meddled in African affairs for the past century or more. Nine knew it was Omegas plan, and that of other greedy organizations, to siphon as much wealth as they could out of vulnerable Third World countries, especially in Africa.

The same organizations had the formula down pat: they indirectly started civil wars in mineral-rich regions by providing arms to opposing local factions, and sometimes even helped to create famines, in order to destabilize African countries. This made the targeted countries highly vulnerable to international control. Once the outside organizations had divided and conquered, they were then able to plunder the country’s resources.

The defeated eyes of the starving children on screen reminded Nine of his fellow orphans growing up in the Pedemont Orphanage. Although he had never experienced malnutrition, he knew what it was like to be born into a living hell.

Sadly, since The Ninth Orphan was published in 2011, not much has changed in Africa; international governments, multinational corporations and the likes of the World Bank and the IMF continue to profit from Africa’s vulnerability.

Wars in numerous African countries continue to go unchallenged and untold millions are raped, killed, maimed and starved while the rest of the world just looks on. It has become such a repetitious story in Africa that wars in the region rarely make international headlines anymore.

Conflict in Africa…all too familiar.

Divide and conquer. That’s the global elite’s proven strategy when it comes to its treatment of Third World countries in Africa and indeed throughout the world. Or, to put it another way, order out of chaos is the global elite’s favored tactic. They engineer chaos by financing both sides of revolutions, movements and civil wars then create order by providing solutions to governments and citizens in these war-torn countries.

To quote the British group James from their 2008 song Ha Ma: “War is just about business.”

 

You have been reading an excerpt from our non-fiction book THE ORPHAN CONSPIRACIES: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy. To read more go to:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Orphan-Conspiracies-Conspiracy-Theories-ebook/dp/B00J4MPFT6/

Not all is as it seems!

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Ongoing conflicts had made exploitation of coltan ore problematic, and much of it was mined illegally and smuggled out of the country by militias from Rwanda and other neighboring countries. As a result, Congolese coltan represented only about a tenth of the world’s total production even though the DRC was believed to have seventy percent of known coltan reserves. The Orphan Uprising

 

The DRC…rich in minerals yet one of the poorest nations on earth.

In book three of The Orphan Trilogy, Nine (aka Sebastian) has reason to cross Zambia’s northern border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – previously and variously known as the Belgian Congo, Congo Free State, Congo-Leopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa and Zaire – in central Africa.

Nine’s target is a coltan refinery owned and operated by American conglomerate Carmel Corporation. The corporation is a fictitious entity, but the precious metallic ore known as coltan – official name columbite-tantalite – is very real.

This precious ore is found in large quantities in the DRC’s disputed eastern regions. When refined, the result is metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder capable of holding a high electrical charge – properties that are essential for the creation of electronic elements known as capacitors.

These capacitors are included in the manufacture of mobile phones, digital cameras, laptop computers and in communications technology generally, making coltan an indispensable part of the burgeoning and extraordinarily profitable communications and technology sectors. Hence its value.

 

DRC’s estimated mineral wealth US$24 trillion

Marange diamond panners

African diamond miners at work (above). The end result of their labors (below).

Blue diamond unearthed at the Cullinan mine

As chance would have it, the DRC is believed to have seventy to eighty per cent of known coltan reserves worldwide. It also has around one third of the world’s known diamond reserves and is rich in other precious metals, too. With reserves of untapped mineral deposits estimated at US$24 trillion, it’s little wonder the DRC is considered by some to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, if not the wealthiest, in terms of natural resources.

Now here’s the rub: the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been beset by war and is one of the most violent, unstable and poverty stricken nations on the planet.

In an article on the All Africa online news site dated November 21, 2013, the Congolese war (which incorporates the back-to-back First and Second Congo Wars) is said to have “killed over six million people since 1996,” and “is the deadliest conflict in the world since the Second World War. If you add the number of deaths in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Rwanda over the same period, it would still not equal the millions who have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

An anti-foreigners protest in Reiger Park. Xenophobic violence exploded in South Africa in 2008 and scores of people were killed and more than 100,000 people displaced. Photo/REUTERS

Scenes like this all too common throughout the African continent.

Fatalities are just one side of the conflict, however, with rape also being used as a “weapon of war”, the article goes on to mention. Women and young girls raped during the conflict are estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands.

It’s a sad truth that conflict over control of the DRC’s mineral wealth accounts for much of the violence. Hence the term conflict minerals used to describe coltan, diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt and other precious minerals in the DRC and, indeed, throughout much of Africa.

Gold miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Digging for gold in the Congo.

 

To Nine’s way of thinking, the problems surrounding the exploitation of coltan in the DRC epitomized the problems the entire African continent faced in capitalizing on the huge untapped wealth that lay beneath its surface. Corruption, political unrest and outside interference from non-African countries ensured the continent that should be the world’s wealthiest remained the poorest. The Orphan Uprising

 

A plethora of rebel militias

In the DRC, the link between its vast mineral resources and financing the various militia groups running riot is impossible to ignore. And coltan plays a key role in this never-ending conundrum.

Ongoing conflicts have made exploitation of the DRC’s coltan ore problematic to put it mildly. As a result, Congolese coltan represents only about a tenth of the world’s total production even though it has the lion’s share of the precious metal within its borders.

A UN Security Council report leaves no doubt much of the country’s coltan is mined illegally and smuggled out by rebel militias from neighboring Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Monies earned by these forces finance the ongoing conflict.

So who are these militia groups who are holding the DRC to ransom?

According to South African investigative site Daily Maverick there’s a plethora of rebel militias “all of whom are capable of causing varying degrees of chaos” in the eastern DRC.

In a report on the main rebel factions operating there, Daily Maverick states: “The M23 rebel movement has been the strongest in recent years, closely followed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a motley but dangerous band of Rwandan refugees (some on the run from their role in the Rwandan genocide) and ethnic Hutus, dedicated to their own survival and the eventual overthrow of the Rwandan government”.

The report continues: “Their existence is thought to be a major factor in Rwanda’s involvement in the conflict in the eastern DRC (that and the region’s vast, lucrative mineral supplies, of course) and the group has a horrendous record when it comes to respect for human rights”.

As for the amount of money at stake, the Rwandan Army was rumored to have raised around US$250,000,000 from illegal coltan sales in just 18 months. The Rwandans have denied this of course.

Government troops or armed militia…it’s not always obvious in Africa.

 

“The continent that contains the most poverty also contains the most wealth.” –Bono, from a speech given at the G8 summit held in Chicago, IL, in May 2012.

 

An unnecessary war

It has been widely acknowledged that the brutal war in the DRC is primarily and directly related to the massive demand in the developed world’s countries for the minerals required for their military and electronic industries.

Coltan reserves are not abundant around the world like many other precious metals are. For instance, no coltan mining is undertaken in the US, which is totally reliant on imports of the precious material. The DRC is by far the easiest and cheapest place for the US to import coltan from.

Coltan mining is declining in Canada. And although China has some coltan, it has nowhere near enough to provide for its own high demand for the commodity. Both countries are in a very similar position to the US in this regard.

If the likes of North America and China dealt with alternative coltan suppliers – such as Australia – that would prove far less profitable than dealing with the DRC whose Third World conditions and lack of protections in place guarantee coltan can be sourced at rock bottom prices.

As mentioned in Chapter 16, fleecing the Third World has been a reality for decades if not centuries. Mineral-abundant Third World nations, which should be some of the richest on Earth, are all too often among the poorest. Many argue that the poverty of these nations can usually be blamed on wars strategically engineered by developed nations and Superpowers – wars that are also armed and funded by the developed world.

There is no greater example of this ugly phenomenon than in Africa, and the DRC has regularly been referred to as the poorest country in the world by international aid agencies.

As well as engineered wars that last for many years, the DRC is also raped financially over and over again. The World Bank loans the country billions annually and special clauses in the loan agreements allow for multinational companies to take virtually all the DRC’s enormous mineral resources for a pittance.

Meanwhile, the DRC is left indentured to the World Bank, forever attempting to pay off crippling interest rates. Almost none of the nation’s mineral wealth flows back to its people.

Mining coltan in the Congo (above). These ordinary looking rocks (below) are coltan.

 

Child labor

To add to the problem, many tens of thousands of children in the DRC are employed as miners – oftentimes in coltan mines. The work is primitive, dirty and dangerous.

Workers dig large craters in riverbeds to access the coltan. They then mix water and mud in big tubs to encourage the heavy coltan to settle on the bottom – much like gold miners did panning and sluicing for gold in years gone by. The mines management calls it child labor and officially employs children as young as 12 for this work; the outside world views it as slave labor, which is exactly what it is of course.

Child labor = slave labor in the DRC.

As most mobile phones contain coltan, it’s not too dramatic to say there’s blood on your cell phone – the blood of Congolese workers who are dying in their hundreds of thousands in a conflict that continues to claim many lives. There’s no doubt the demand for coltan is financing the conflict in the DRC and helping to promote the evil that is child/slave labor.

In an October 31, 2010 article by the leading Pakistani media outlet The Express Tribune, columnist Fatima Najm asks if “Pakistan’s 100 million cell phone users know their devices may be soaked in Congolese blood”.

Najm says within each of those phones are small amounts of coltan that add up to a lucrative illegal trade. “The explosive growth in the wireless industry means that demand for these tin ores collectively results in the rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of innocent Congolese people a year”.

The columnist points out that Congo is resource-rich, and its mighty river system has the potential to power all of Africa’s electricity needs. “Experts say stability in Congo could translate into peace and progress for all of Africa, but at least five neighboring countries have proxy militias battling each other in Congo for control of valuable tin ores”.

Is there blood on your cell phone…Probably.

 

Blood coltan not as sexy as blood diamonds

Najm makes an interesting comparison between Congolese coltan and diamonds, advising it’s logical to assume that “given the widespread violence attributed to coltan…one would imagine it would be destined for the same sort of notoriety as blood diamonds”.

Alas, not so, it would seem. ‘Blood diamonds’ obviously sounds a whole lot sexier than ‘blood coltan’ to Western media, moviegoers and the general public.

Primary image for Blood Diamond       Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond the movie and star Leonardo DiCaprio made blood diamonds “sexy”.

Predictably, smart phone manufacturers and the like have been quick to distance themselves from the whole murky business. Some publish disclaimers, denying that they source coltan from militia’s operating in the DRC; many claim the supply chain for coltan mined in the DRC is so complex it’s impossible to ascertain whether it has been legally or illegally mined and supplied.

To be fair, several high profile manufacturers in the US and elsewhere are sourcing their coltan from outside the DRC and, indeed, outside central Africa until such time as the legitimacy of mining operations there can be more clearly established. However, they’re in the minority.

Cell phone consumers and others have long been questioning the legitimacy of products. For the most part, it appears their questions are falling on deaf ears. Perhaps it’s time to ask more questions – and ask them louder.

There has been a campaign in recent years to try to force the big multinational companies to disclose whether or not they use Congolese conflict minerals. However, it’s often impossible to prove where such minerals come from.

Just as crafty banksters frequently transfer vast sums of money between various offshore tax havens to conceal their money trail, corporations that profit from ultra-cheap Congolese conflict minerals have middle men – usually warlords – who smuggle minerals from country to country so it’s extremely difficult to trace their origins.

Convoluted smuggling routes make source of conflict minerals hard to trace.

Of course, the problem of conflict minerals isn’t limited to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; it exists throughout much of the African continent. Equally, the problem isn’t limited to Africa.

Perhaps the last word on this vexing issue should go to The Guardian contributor Zobel Behalal, a peace and conflict advocacy officer, who reminds us that in Burma the mining industry was militarized for several decades, with the national army controlling mining sites, business operations and exportation, while in Colombia tantalum, wolframite and gold mines as well as their respective business concerns are controlled and taxed by armed groups.

Writing in The Guardian, Behalal says, “Products that have funded conflicts can only reach the international market with participation of the businesses that buy and use them. Bloomberg revealed that BMW’s, Ferraris, Porches and Volkswagens contain tungsten and wolframite that come from businesses under the control of the FARC Colombian rebels”.

Behalal insists these aren’t isolated cases.

“The trade of natural resources continues at the expense of violence and human rights violations. There is an urgent need to create a win-win contract between the economic factors and the local populations in order to create real and sustainable development in countries rich in natural resources.

“Due diligence must be enforced as a mandatory requirement throughout the supply chain of natural resources.”

pastedGraphic-2.jpg

Laborers toil at Burma’s famed Hpakangyi jade mine. 

 

Nine was aware the continued siphoning of coltan, as well as cobalt and diamonds, from the eastern Congo was part of a wider conspiracy to destabilize the country. The Orphan Uprising

 

It’s our contention governments, big corporations, industries and business moguls of the West and elsewhere in the developed world are very aware of what’s going on in Third World countries like the DRC. At best they pay lip service to the need to stamp out the conflict minerals business; at worst they knowingly encourage the trade in conflict minerals.

There does seem to be enough evidence – anecdotal and otherwise – surrounding the trade of coltan sourced in the DRC to suggest most are content to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of natural resources and the human cost of the conflict minerals business. To our eyes at least, this evidence is overwhelming. So overwhelming that, of the 29 conspiracy theories highlighted in The Orphan Trilogy, the blood minerals conspiracy is probably among those most likely to be true.

But hey, what do we know?

 

Read more in The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy – available now via Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Orphan-Conspiracies-Conspiracy-Theories-ebook/dp/B00J4MPFT6/

A book that’s for the common people.

 

Not all is what it seems! –James & Lance

 

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