Concerns about the links between mineral exploitation and conflict financing emerged in the early 2000s, in the midst of the war that ravaged Eastern DRC. The UN Group of Experts first documented how mineral exploitation and trade was contributing to financing the war effort, and international NGOs and lobby groups started to campaign around the issue of so-called ‘conflict minerals’. A simplified but powerful narrative emerged on the causal link between the presence of mineral resources and the persistence of conflict. Numerous (mostly) international initiatives were taken to break the link between minerals and conflict, and stop the involvement of armed groups.

Congolese and international academics have challenged this simplified narrative from the start. Some CEGEMI members contributed for instance to the open letter on conflict minerals, a letter signed by 70 Congolese and international experts, which has stirred up the debate on the issue. The flaws in the argument – that stopping the trade in conflict minerals will stop the conflict in eastern DRC – have been documented in several publications, including Sara Geenen’s, Séverine Autesserre’sLaura Seay’s, Ben Radley’s and many others. The outcomes of such reasoning, in the form of policy initiatives of which the most prominent has been Section 1502 or the Dodd-Frank act and subsequent European legislation, but also a range of other certification and traceability initiatives, have had a great impact on local livelihoods, which have also been documented by numerous academics, including CEGEMI’s Gabriel Kamundala, Marijke Verpoorten, Nik Stoop, Sara Geenen. CEGEMI member Ben Radley has been working on the documentary We Will Win Peace, which documents the successes and impact of Western advocacy around the conflict minerals campaign. See also his contribution for ROAPE on Western advocacy groups and (class) conflict in the Congo.

CEGEMI aims to contribute to the debate in a constructive way. Being present in eastern DRC, we have witnessed first-hand the impact of international and national policy initiatives, and want to critically assess yet constructively contribute to policy solutions for governance problems in the artisanal mining sector.

We also aim to deconstruct the notion of ‘conflict’, by highlighting various forms ranging from coercion, control and territorialization, to forced labour, social mobilization and other forms of violence.