Natural Resources Fuel Brutal War in Congo

In the U.S., communities can be inconvenienced by the extraction of natural resources — increased air pollution, say, or loss of undeveloped land. But it’s worth remembering that in other parts of the world, the stakes are quite a bit higher. Case in point: the cruelly named Democratic Republic of Congo, where competition over valuable natural resources has fueled a brutal five-year civil war that has led to 3 million deaths and untold suffering and displacement. Consider the jungle town of Walikale, where mines produce some $1 million a month worth of cassiterite, the base element of tin. Fighting and looting in Walikale have been such that it is virtually a ghost town, with almost all of the town’s 15,000 residents having fled into the bush, where they often catch diseases, starve, and die. Said one of the remaining residents, “There are fabulous riches being pulled out from underneath us, but the population does not benefit at all. Instead, we suffer.”