The purchasing of conflict resources undoubtedly fuels conflicts worldwide, the UN’s Environment Programme has found that at least 40% of all internal conflicts of the last 60 years can be linked to the misuse of natural resources. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, being a resource rich country, is an example of this, rich in diamonds, cobalt, coltan, and gold. The UN has issued reports as far back as 2001 implicating Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Zimbabwe in utilising the unrest in the DRC to illegally exploit conflict resources in the region, found to amount to billions of dollars in 2005.
The history of exploitation of resources in the Congo region goes back hundreds of years. As early as the 1480's Portuguese traders were destabilising indigenous social structures to reap the benefits of localised conflicts and the subsequent enslavement they lead to. The slave trade boomed from the mouth of the River Congo and across West Africa as the Portuguese and British established the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. This period was followed by Belgian colonialism under King Leopold II, with a brutal rubber industry dependant on slave labour that reached deeper into the Congo essentially destroying all indigenous societies in the region. Belgian trade later diversified into mining as the roots of the modern conflict resource industry took hold in the country.
This conflict resource industry boomed due mainly to the Congo’s rich coltan deposits, a mineral used to make capacitors, common in laptops, smart phones, cameras, printers, engines and many more electronic products around the world. However the supply chain isn’t limited to African countries, with many component manufacturers in the US, Germany, China and Belgium importing coltan from the DRC and directly benefiting from the situation there. These components are then used by companies like Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, IBM, Sony, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, who products are wide distributed. This situation has help to fuel unrest in the DRC until present.