Reporters pointed out a statement made in 2007 by Obama when he said the following: "Well, look, if that's the criteria [genocide or humanitarian crises] by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now - where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife - which we haven't done."
Statements such as the above attributed to Obama, explains in part why there is such silence around the tragic situation in the Congo. The conflict is unfortunately and wrongly presented as ethnic bloodletting. The ethnic rationale for the conflict in the Congo, plays into long-held stereotypes that Africans are interminably trapped in "tribal bloodletting," hence, nothing can be done, resolutions are futile and there is little need to talk about the situation or address the issue.
The central reason for the nearly six million dead in the Congo since 1996 is not "ethnic strife" but rather the scramble for Congo's enormous treasure trove of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, timber and more. Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai rightly assesses the problem when she notes, "these wars when you look at them, they are all about resources and who is going to control them."
Beneficiaries of Congo's resource war include foreign corporations and consumers. Senator Sam Brownback reminds us that "almost every American owns at least one device in which coltan has been used." Coltan is a key mineral that drives the conflict in the Congo and is found in our cell phones, laptop computers, digital cameras, video game consoles and many other devices. Congo has anywhere from 64% - 80% of the world's reserve of coltan.
We are hopeful that the journalists at Unity 08 conference in Chicago this week will break the silence around the Congo and ask both Obama and McCain about their policies for contributing to ending the conflict in the Congo and stopping the systematic looting of Congo's natural resources.