Thursday, June 24, 2010

Support Transparency Amendment to Conflict Minerals Act

Civil azali bilanga ya militaire” was a popular Congolese expression during the Mobutu regime which means: the civilian is the [corn] field of the military [1].
Rb137, a blogger at both Daily Kos and FDL's The Seminal, is pushing hard to get Congress to approve an amendment to the Conflict Minerals Amendment to the Wall Street Reform bill in Congress. In a recent article she explains why, noting we are facing an 11th hour vote on "blood diamonds" legislation.

From her article at The Seminal:

We are complicit in a brutal civil war taking place in The Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC]. Many of the metals that are used in technology come from the mining operations that support this war. You might have a device that funded this conflict in your pocket right now.

There is an important amendment to the Wall Street reform bill that directly impacts this conflict, and it needs your attention right now. This vote will be done by the end of the week. Today really is the 11th hour for conflict minerals legislation, which is up for a vote and is under attack by the National Association of Manufacturers:

NAM Concerned with Conflict Minerals Trade Act. New legislation is moving through Congress that could affect global supply chains and create new customs burdens…The legislation would require a transaction-by-transaction import declaration at entry certifying that a company’s imports do not contain “conflict” minerals…

This legislation is essential if we will address the conflict mineral trade — and it only requires transparency from companies; it does not require certification. This is an effort that industry can afford to make.

Barney Frank will soon announce a House offer on the Conflict Minerals Amendment to the Wall Street reform bill. It contains some language from HR 4128, which is the Conflict Minerals and Trade Act, but it does not require a certification of non-conflict — it requires transparency. If a company buys minerals known to be tied to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they must report their source publicly.

This amendment is carefully written to avoid intractible certification issues, but NAM is vehemently opposed to the measure. The corollary to NAM’s complaint: US companies will suffer if manufacturers are forced to disclose that they buy metal ore from the FDLR.

The FDLR is a militia called the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda — seeded from a paramilitary organization called the Interahamwe, the same group that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The horror they inflict on the population around the Kivu region is absolutely monstrous, and the money they get from selling mineral ore buys weapons and empowers them to perpetuate the violence.

How bad is the sexual violence in the DRC? According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, "at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded since 1996," and who knows how many have gone unreported.

Nor is the violence limited to one political group. According to a blog posting on the Congo conflict by the Canadian group, SAFER, Global Witness recently had researchers spend four weeks in the eastern DRC:
Global Witness reports that former Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) rebels, integrated into the national army in 2009, have “gained far greater control of mining areas than they ever enjoyed as insurgents” in some of the country’s most lucrative tin (cassiterite) and tantalum mines. What this means for the workers scraping a living from these mines (often with bare hands), is that they are forced to pay illegal “taxes” to the armed soldiers and hand over large portions of their labour before they are allowed to leave the mine....

When faced with a gun, what can you do?…They ask for money…They ask for gold or cassiterite [tin]. Whatever happens, you have to give it.

–miner from Shabunda describing extortion at military roadblocks. Bukavu, 28 July 2008

What to Do?

Rb137 has kindly placed an action list of phone numbers in her blog postings. The following is taken from her Daily Kos post:

Call Blanche Lincoln and Bob Corker:

Blanche Lincoln and Bob Corker are Senate conferees on conflict minerals and are reported to stand with NAM in opposition to this legislation:

Sen. Lincoln (D-AR): 202-224-4843

Bob Corker (R-TN): 202-224-3344

Please call their offices today, and tell them to support the House offer on conflict minerals.

Another thing you can do quickly without leaving your chair: urge all of the House and Senate conferees on conflict minerals to vote "yes" on the House offer on Congo minerals.

Please use this quick action email link tell selected members of the House and Senate to support this important conflict mineral amendment. Members of the House and Senate have agreed upon language that is a useful first step -- and it is manageable for the companies that consume conflict metals, as well. This legislation simple requires transparancy with regard to buying and selling minerals.

To the degree you can, please call the conferees individually. In particular, ask them to to yes on the House offer on Congo minerals.

Senate members
Chris Dodd (D-CT) (202) 224-2823
Tim Johnson (D-SD) (202) 224-5842
Jack Reed (D-RI) (202) 224-4642
Charles Schumer (D-NY) (202) 224-6542
Richard Shelby (R-AL) (202) 224-5744
Bob Corker (R-TN) (202) 224-3344
Mike Crapo (R-ID) (202) 224-6142
Judd Gregg (R-NH) (202) 224-3324
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) (202) 224-4843
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (202) 224-4242
Tom Harkin (D-IA) (202) 224-3254
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) (202) 224-3521

House members
Howard Berman (D-CA) (202) 225-4695
Leonard Boswell (D-IA) (202) 225-3806
John Conyers (D-MI) (202) 225-5126
Elijah Cummings (D-MD) (202) 225-4741
Barney Frank (D-MA) (202) 225-5931
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (202) 225-8203
Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) (202) 225-6511
Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) (202) 225-2015
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) (202) 225-7944
Gregory Meeks (D-NY) (202) 225-3461
Dennis Moore (D-KA) (202) 225-2865
Gary Peters (D-MI) (202) 225-5802
Collin Peterson (D-MN) (202) 225-2165
Bobby Rush (D-IL) (202) 225-4372
Heath Shuler (D-NC) (202) 225-6401
Edolphus Towns (D-NY) (202) 225-5936
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) (202) 225-2361
Maxine Waters (D-CA) (202) 225-2201
Mel Watt (D-NC) (202) 225-1510
Henry Waxman (D-CA) (202) 225-3976
Spencer Bachus (R-AL) (202) 225-4921
Joe Barton (R-TX) (202) 225-2002
Judy Biggert (R-IL) (202) 225-3515
Scott Garrett (R-NJ) (202) 225-4465
Sam Graves (R-MO) (202) 225-7041
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) (202) 225-3484
Darrell Issa (R-CA) (202) 225-3906
Frank Lucas (R-OK) (202) 225-5565
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (202) 225-2711

[1] Baaz and Stern, J Modern African Studies, 46(1): 57-86 (2008). Quoted from SAFER website, accessed June 24, 2010.

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