What Is Happening In the Congo? A “Silent Genocide”

By Haley Hart

November 17, 2023

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, plentiful in its valuable natural resources, has been trapped in a continuous cycle of brutality and extreme exploitation, which many are now referring to as the “silent genocide”. At the center of this horrific crisis lies the pursuit of resources. 

Coltan, short for columbite-tantalite, is a mineral which is an essential component in the production of laptops, smartphones, and several other electronic devices. The global demand for coltan has led to a hunt for this beneficial resource, and has left the Congo in complete shambles. The mining of coltan in the Congo has become closely connected to the violence the country has faced, as armed groups and militias have seized control of numerous mining sites in attempt to gain dominance over the trade. The unethical seeking of coltan has led to the loss of over 6 million innocent individuals and the displacement of thousands. Many citizens of Congo are being forced to mine for coltan without proper training and equipment for the benefit of the nations demanding coltan, this includes children. Additionally in recent years, Congolese women have been sexually assaulted at alarming rates by armed men. 

Alain Libondo (17) left, and Nsinku Zihindula (25), hammering at solid rock to find cassiterite and coltan at Szibira, South Kivu

The lack of regulatory oversight has allowed a shadow economy to thrive, enabling the trade of coltan to flourish. This has only continued a cycle of brutality and uncertainty for the people of the Congo, perpetuating violence that continues to harm the country. 

According to writer, Jonah Hackett, “Global foreign agents reporting on this war tend to associate the beginning of this modern conflict with the Rwandan Genocide from 1993-1994. The Rwandan Genocide constituted of ethnic Hutu extremists attacking another ethnic group, the Tutsis, and also moderate Hutus. The genocide killed about 1 million people and additionally hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Many attacker and victims of the genocide fled to Rwanda’s neighboring country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

For those who are not aware, In 2022, tensions broke out between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, which led to several attacks by Congolese and Rwandan forces on each other's territory.

Moreover, the complicity of multinational corporations has further complicated the issue. The complex, nuanced mesh of intermediaries and traders have often concealed the origins of coltan, in turn, making it difficult to trace whether the mineral has been sourced in an ethical way. Because of this, the global tech industry’s reliance on coltan has unintentionally contributed to the cruelty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Numerous efforts to address these atrocities have been met with several struggles, like, lack of media coverage and political upheaval. While some initiatives have centered on implementing “transparency measures” within the supply chain, these efforts have yet to yield significant effects in settling the true issues at hand.