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CONGO: The number of killed is approaching the Holocaust

When Elephants Fight
Regissør: Mike Ramsdell

DOCUMENTS IN MODERN TIMES: 5,4 million killed. Hundreds of thousands of raped women, and millions forced out of their homes. This is among the consequences of the Congolese mineral conflict over the past ten to twenty years.


Control over so-called conflict minerals goes like a red thread through the unrest in Congo. Tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold are used in everything from floating parts to mobile phones. A large proportion of these minerals come from Congo, which is also rich in natural resources such as diamonds, uranium, natural gas, oil and rare woods. Because conflict minerals are so valuable, rebel groups and military leaders have long used tactics such as slavery, rape, murder and theft to gain control over them. Millions of dollars fall into their hands when the goods are sold on the international market, where they end up in our electrical appliances. Screen Shot at 2015 05-04-11.34.23 The UN estimates that Congo has untouched mineral reserves worth 24 trillion (24 billion). “Since the end of the 1990 century, military troops, rebel groups and armies have plundered these riches. This has cost a series of wars that have caused more deaths than any other conflict since World War II, ”says filmmaker Mike Ramsdell, current with the Congo documentary When Elephants Fight. "The deaths have not happened via bombing or drone attacks. When a person is killed in Congo, it is because someone wants it that way. This election has been made over five million times in 17 years, ”he says. "A cursory look at the situation may give the impression of 'Africans killing each other'. But the reality is that the conflict has been sustained by the West, which has served on it. The Congolese have lived under dictatorship supported by Western countries. When I understood how much responsibility the West has for what has happened, this became an important story for me to tell, "Ramsdell says of the background to the film. What made the biggest impact on Ramsdell during the work was the Congolese frustration over wars and meaninglessness that just kept going. The UN's largest ground forces are located in the country, but have done very little to curb the violence, he says: Nobody contributed gasoline to make the well work, and without food and water in the stomach, the drugs would only have made them even sicker. ” While talking to people who saw their children die and even starved to death, a UN helicopter began to fly over them. Every time a helicopter is sent up, it costs many thousands of dollars. The sum could provide food and drinking water to the camp for a month. "A tremendous anger was expressed when they talked about this. People starve to death in their own land, while Western countries fly over them by helicopter and claim to help, ”says Ramsdell.

Two forms of exchange

The film is intended to provide understanding and hope, as well as highlight specific steps we can take to help improve Congo. The documentary has explored two different areas of the country, where mineral exchange takes place in different ways: There is not much war there, but Congo loses a lot of money when companies make corrupt deals and hide behind companies registered in the Virgin Islands. The grants companies have received cheaply from the Congolese government are sold to mining companies with up to 800 percent profit, ”Ramsdell says. “In Eastern Congo there are more primitive recovery conditions, where much is controlled and exploited by armed groups, corrupt military and neighboring countries. The area is wild, and millions have been killed and displaced, ”he continues. “None of this happened suddenly, but has roots far back in history. The first slaves were taken from the Congo estuary by the Portuguese. Then came the Belgian king Leopold II and his exploitation of ivory and rubber during the Congo Free State (2-1885) and Belgian Congo (1908-1908). After that, the United States also became involved. In 1960, Congo had its first democratic election, with Patrice Lumumba being voted president. The US and Belgium made Lumumba assassinated – and deployed his own dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled for 1960 years. Mobutu made a net worth of $ 30 billion while letting Congo fall into disrepute. When an armed rebel group plunged Mobutu in frustration, the United States wanted to cooperate, and Western companies began to make deals with the group, ”Ramsdell said. "We're where we are because history brought us here. This is important to understand, ”he says. A cursory look at the situation may give the impression of 'Africans killing each other'. But the reality is that the conflict has been sustained by the West, which has served on it. Hope and action. The previous Mike Ramsdell movie, The Anatomy of Hate from 2009, embraced hatred as a culturally learned mechanism, and had a strong foundation in philosophy and social science. This time too, he will not only show tragedy, but also ground for hope. “Some will say I don't show enough hope, others will say I show too much. I want viewers to feel empowered for action at the end of the movie. I say firstly that the situation does not have to be the way it is, and secondly that the Congolese do everything they can. For example, there are many grassroots organizations. The average person in Congo wants peace and tolerance, and to be able to send their children to school. Third, there are very specific actions we, as Western consumers and voters, can take to bring hope and create a new reality for the Congolese, ”the documentary says. Ramsdell includes human portrayals in his films that appeal to the audience's emotions – not just the intellect. Then it becomes easier for viewers to look at the subjects as fellow human beings. "I show not only happy Congolese, but also the diversity of the population. We have an overly unilateral view of Africa. Obviously, there are people living in a straw hut in the countryside, and starving children. But there are also great academics, people who have educated all over the world and come back because they want to make a difference on their own continent. A man I interviewed speaks 14 languages ​​and has traveled all over the world. There is a great diversity of personalities and abilities, something I want to make clear, ”the filmmaker says. Much is portrayed through footage from meetings with people in Congo, but also through historical material. “The four years I spent working on the film, I stayed in Congo a lot. Many film clips show today's conditions, and I interviewed people who have been central to historical events. The film provides many different perspectives to understand the current situation. I especially wanted to bring out the voices and stories of the Congolese, ”says Ramsdell.

Irresponsible industry

The filmmaker believes most Americans are unfamiliar with the conflict in the Congo, despite the so-called Obama Act of 2013 that would put an end to unethical mineral recovery. "The Dodd-Frank Act should address the problems both in the east and south of the country. It requires corporations to demonstrate that the minerals in the products have not financed conflict, and that companies doing business in the United States must have full transparency in their contracts. Companies must show what they have paid for their natural gases, oils and minerals to avoid many of the loopholes that make it possible to be corrupt. The latter was never implemented, ”says the director, who is not impressed by the industry's ability to deal with the problems. «Already in 2001, the United Nations published its first report that minerals in eastern Congo are financing the conflict. Thus, for twelve years, the electronics industry knew that they were making a fortune on minerals that financed a war. Still, they did nothing. Now it is claimed that the legislation creates too much paperwork and that it does not change anything. The industry has launched a campaign to blacken the law. Those who had twelve years to do something on their own, ”says Ramsdell. It frustrates him when media and ordinary people paint the legislation. "It has a ripple effect that some Congolese dislike, and it doesn't solve all the problems. It still helps, and draws a lot of attention to the case. The corporations will have to find a better alternative, and the authorities will be forced to regulate mining so that they can show that the minerals are conflict-free. “Electronics manufacturers want to sell. If many people demand products free of conflict minerals, companies will make them. This will force them to adopt the OECD's guidelines for diligence in mineral extraction from Congo, concludes Ramsdell.

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