The lawless and terrifying reality of mining in central Africa
Going behind the headlines and deep into the brutal world of the Congo, this exposé examines why eastern Congo is the most dangerous place on the planet. While the Western world takes for granted its creature comforts such as cell phones or computers, five million Congolese needlessly die in the quest for the valuable minerals that make those technologies work. Much of the war-torn country has largely become lawless, overrun by warlords who exploit and murder the population for their own gain. Delving into the history of the former Belgian colony, this book exposes the horror of day-to-day life in the Congo, largely precipitated by colonial exploitation and internal strife after gaining independence. It offers not only a view into the dire situation but also examines how the Western world, a part of the problem, can become a part of the solution.
In harrowing detail, Eichstaedt (First Kill Your Family) investigates the "the deadliest human catastrophe since World War II," the carnage in eastern Congo, fought for and financed by the country's stores of rare and precious resources including gold and coltan, the metal powering our cellphones and computers. As one of Eichstaedt's interviewees says, "It is as if the blood draws the gold out of the earth." Firsthand accounts of massacres and sexual assault so rampant it is best described as "sexual terrorism" are juxtaposed with the desperate attempts of aid groups struggling to save civilians. The struggle to wrest control of the mining is clotted by profiteers, militias backed by Rwanda and Uganda, and an alphabet soup of aid agency acronyms. The detail can be dizzying, but Eichstaedt keeps the narrative focused. The book includes the stories of survivors, militiamen, the miners in the "killing fields," and recounts the Congo's role in global commerce. While the issues raised seemed daunting if not outright intractable, Eichstaedt provides counterpoint and a glimmer of hope in the form of possible reforms and legislations that could restore order to a devastated region.