The crisis country Congo and the curse of wealth

When Serge was 15 years old, he executed his uncle and nine other people. The boy is a former child soldier from eastern Congo. If he had not mowed his militia hostage with the Kalashnikov, his tormentor would have tortured him to death. With this threat, the adult fighter compelled the child to kill. - Source: © 2018

Like thousands of other Congolese, Serge was doomed to the region's minerals: gold, diamonds, cobalt, coltan, and other ores attract militias. The gangs are exploiting the people. With their income they buy weapons to conquer more areas. Every day, gunmen in eastern Congo rape dozens of women. Villagers are enslaved or killed, children are made militiamen for accomplices. But despite these human rights violations, many minerals from the country continue to migrate to laptops and smartphones in Central Africa. And with us to Germany. They are used for example for the vibration alarm and in batteries.

A mass-produced cell phone that can do without these minerals from many countries does not exist. Each smartphone contains a few grams of dozens of minerals. The phones should be handy small and still afford as much as possible. For this, the manufacturers need substances such as cobalt and the less well-known coltan. The minerals are the doping of mobile phones.

About half of the world production of the two fabrics comes from Central Africa. Cobalt is mostly exported to Asia, Coltan also goes to Germany, because here sits a leading processing plant. From the ore you can win the gray-shining, rare metal tantalum.

- Source: © 2018

Ex-child soldier Serge was twelve years old when he was abducted by militia members of a local militia, Mai Mai Cheka, in North Kivu province. "The first time I killed two days after I arrived in the camp," Serge recalls. It has a method: The gangs force children to kill so they do not dare to go home.

Congolese are digging for Coltan with their bare hands

The Cheka militia is after the mines. "They use the minerals to buy new weapons," says the 17-year-old. In reality, Serge's name is different. He speaks calmly but indifferently.

- Source: © 2018

The militia forcibly recruited workers in the villages, including children. They had to promote gold, diamonds and coltan. "If people did not work well, then we shot them." In 2016 Serge escaped during a battle. Now the teenager lives in the town of Minova in the province of South Kivu in a trauma center of Caritas. It is supported by the Catholic relief organization Missio.

Minova is located on a hill at the picturesque Kivusee, which is about five times the size of Lake Constance. The hills are lush green, the soil is fertile in eastern Congo. But the idyll is deceptive. Especially the provinces of North and South Kivu are the center of violence in Congo. And despite one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions with about 20,000 peacekeepers. The state is weak and corrupt, the judiciary a farce. The people are at the mercy of the conflicts.

The violence is fired by the greed for the mineral resources. In many places, you only have to search in riverbeds or dig something. A mine in the eastern Congo often only consists of a hole in the ground or in the rock. People simply dig with their hands.

Police are patrolling the village with bazooka

The less poor are using a shovel or a hammer, machines are being looked for in vain. Mushamuka Mweze is one such "Creuseur", derived from the French word "dig up". "I have been in the mine for 16 years," says the 25-year-old. With a hammer and a chisel, Mweze treats the rocks in the Zola Zola mine about three hours west of the city of Bukavu.

- Source: © 2018

Zola-Zola is a good place to work for the Congolese, as mining of cinnabar is Kassiterite and Coltan is legal in the mine. The security forces are trying to protect the facilities from the militia and the village even patrols a bazooka. - Source: © 2018

In the Congo, according to an estimate by the US Geological Survey - or USGS for short - up to two million people are earning their money from mining minerals. Due to the conflicts, there are hardly any industrial mines in eastern Congo. Experts from the Belgian institute Ipsi have counted more than 2000 small mines in the region, such as those in Zola-Zola.

About one in two is therefore controlled by a militia or soldiers. Most mines are illegal, which makes it easier for armed groups to exploit. At Kalashnikov workers have to pay "taxes" for found minerals.

Sexual violence is also used by militia in the eastern Congo as a weapon of war

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