From the NYT (link, and others, below)
The “Loi Obama” or Obama Law — as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act of 2010 has become known in the region — includes an obscure provision that requires public companies to indicate what measures they are taking to ensure that minerals in their supply chain don’t benefit warlords in conflict-ravaged Congo. The law has brought about a de facto embargo on the minerals mined in the region, including tin, tungsten and the tantalum that is essential for making cellphones.
For locals, however, the law has been a catastrophe. In South Kivu Province, I heard from scores of artisanal miners and small-scale purchasers, who used to make a few dollars a day digging ore out of mountainsides with hand tools. Paltry as it may seem, this income was a lifeline for people in a region that was devastated by 32 years of misrule under the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko (when the country was known as Zaire) and that is now just beginning to emerge from over a decade of brutal war and internal strife.
Meanwhile, the law is benefiting some of the very people it was meant to single out. The chief beneficiary is Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is nicknamed The Terminator and is sought by the International Criminal Court. Ostensibly a member of the Congolese Army, he is in fact a freelance killer with his own ethnic Tutsi militia, which provides “security” to traders smuggling minerals across the border to neighboring Rwanda.
All this might be a price worth paying if the law were having its intended effect of economically asphyxiating the warlords who turned eastern Congo into the deadliest conflict zone since World War II. But by the time President Obama signed the law last summer, the conflict had moved into a different phase. Most of the militias that wreaked havoc between 2003 and 2008 have since been incorporated into the Congolese Army. The two or three of any significance that remain get their money from kidnapping and extortion, not from controlling mining sites or transport routes. The law has not stopped their depredations.
I wrote about this issue back when the law was passing. I said then that I thought it was a really bad idea because the law works on the assumption that transitioning from a failed state to a governed state is like turning on a light switch. Now everyone seems to have come to the agreement that it was a really bad idea because… transitioning from a failed state to a governed state isn’t like turning on a light-switch. It requires co-opting various other power groups, and it requires doing so from a position of strength. The law weakens both the state’s monopoly on power and its ability to assert control over regions which rebels still hold, which is at this point extremely dangerous.
The Chinese on the other hand have actively supported the national government as well as the security and livelihood to those who work for local Chinese mines. Chinese investment in poor African states is usually something of a mixed blessing, but they would have to do a lot before they match the harm done by America.
How Congress Devastated Congo – New York Times
Interview with Eric Kajemba on Conflict Minerals – Congo Siasa
The DRC minerals mess – Texas in Africa