Videos & Media – Coltan Research

Videos & Media

Crisis in Congo: Uncovering the Truth (2011)

“Congo is like a nightmare in heaven…it’s a heaven because, you know, Congo is the heart if Africa. So much natural resource. The people and the animals and the flowers…everything. Congo is heaven but the thing is that people are living like in hell. People are dying…Everybody wants a piece of Congo”

—Mbepongo “Dedy” Bilamba, author and Congolese activist

Video on Left: Content warning: Genocide, rape, human rights violations

This short documentary is an extract from a feature-length film yet to be completed/released. It is produced by Friends of the Congo, a Washington DC-based advocacy organisation formed in 2004 to bring about change to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The film provides a range of perspectives on the numerous issues plaguing the DRC, locating them in an historical trajectory from King Leopold II’s ownership through to Rwandan invasion and – perhaps most importantly – the complicity of the US and other global superpowers. It discusses on the sustained Genocide, rape, and pillaging of the Congolese population by Rwandan rebels, as well as the failure of international organizations and institutions to intervene.

The film sketches a timeline of Congolese history to account for the difficulties it continues to face

The film is geared towards audiences with little to no prior knowledge of the crises afflicting the DRC, and situates the viewer by sketching a timeline of events in order to account for the complexity of the issue. It draws history from Leopold II through to colonial rule, eventual independence, subsequent assassination, and the dictatorship in the latter half of the 20th century, providing reasons that such a resource-rich nation is not in control of its own destiny, and continues to suffer exploitation, genocide, and neglect on the international level. As interviewee and Executive Director of Friends of the Congo Maurice Carney argues, “But all this 125 years must be taken into consideration to fully understand why Congo is in a weakened state today…now what that does is it destroys and eviscerates the Congolese institutions”

“The mines exist. People used to live in those areas. Have we ever asked who was living where the mine was before? Did the mine just show up? No, there were villages where those mines were.”

– Kambale Musavuli, Congolese Human Rights Activist

This context is necessary because the film predominantly speaks to a presumed American audience, with the narrator often invoking the rhetorical “we” when discussing US involvement in the matter, and Howard French of the NY Times openly remarking, “there’s something wrong with us in terms of the way we think about Africa.” Indeed, the film recounts the lasting impact of the Rwandan genocide and rebellion on the DRC, citing in particular the lack of international response and intervention as creating a ‘green light’ of sorts, whereby similar atrocities could be committed in and around Central Africa. The film is especially critical of the Clinton Administration’s “pro-Rwanda policy,” which effectively ‘turned the other way’ while the invasion of the DRC took place in the 1990s.

An interview with a man from the Kibumba village speaking about the invasion of Rwandan rebels displacing the village’s population, who flee for their safety elsewhere

At one point, when the speakers point out that the U.S. continued (and continues) to support Rwanda, despite its categorization from a leaked UN report as a Genocidal nation, they highlight the dependency on Congolese resources as a continuing factor in the lack of action. But according to Carney, the US cannot hide behind its need for conflict minerals:

“It doesn’t have to be that way. You do not have to slaughter millions of people to get access to the cobalt for your colour television, or access to the cobalt for your aerospace industry, or access to the copper for your automobile industry.”

“If you drive an automobile, or fly on airplanes, or own a cell phone, as a human being at the very least you ought to be concerned, you ought to say something, you ought to want to find out why this is happening, you ought to be moved to want to bring an end to it.”

Yaa-Lengi Ngemi also offers a plea for a change of approach, recognizing the importance of resources and conflict minerals, while at the same time requesting that the Congolese people be considered in such decisions:

“Alright, you dealing with the economy, you want the coltan, man Congolese people don’t eat coltan. Congolese people can’t eat gold. Talk to the Congolese people who gonna let you get the resources but for God sake, stop killing the people! Stop letting Rwanda, Uganda, and Joseph Kabila kill with impunity!”

List of Personnel interviewed:

Maurice Carney Co-Founder and Executive Director of Friends of the Congo

Mbepongo “Dedy” Bilamba, author and Congolese activist

Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

Claver Pashi, executive director, DR Congo Forum

Gregory H. Stanton, US State Dept., 1992-1999. President, Genocide Watch

Yaa-Lengi Ngemi author of ‘Genocide in the Congo (Zaire)

Anneke Van Woudenberg, Sr. Researcher, Human Rights Watch

Howard French, New York Times, AP, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Dan Fahey, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley

Kambale Musavuli, Congolese Human Rights Activist

Nita Evele, Congo Global Action

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