Golden Misabiko: On the situation in the DR Congo/No 5

In this article, human rights activist Golden Misabiko writes about africa’s minerals and human rights.


Africa is a very rich continent potentially; as far as natural resources ( water, soil , oil, air, forests …) are concerned ; and with  such huge deposits of various minerals as copper, cobalt, zinc, tin, germanium, manganese, uranium, gold, diamonds, Colombo-tantalite or coltan … These can be found from  South to the North  through savanna and forests of central Africa till the most arid Sahara region.

Because of lack of good management, good governance and transparency in ‘’managing’’ these natural resources, and because of poor leadership in most of the African countries, the incomes from these minerals are not benefiting people in these countries at all.

In spite of all these enormous minerals, Africa remains the poorest continent considering social development achievements. Hunger and misery can be seen everywhere in this ‘’rich –apparent’’ environment where minerals are being intensively exploited but the benefits of which do not profit the countries and their people. We have seen countries like Niger and Congo DRC with so huge, inviting and attracting mine deposits to be ranked, according to the international reports, the last countries as far as social/human development is concerned ( see Congo DRC and Niger; in UNHD Index 2012 ).

Some of the realities that justify this unfortunate paradox situation, can be identified as poor leadership of the countries in managing the states’ natural resources [1]; lack of skills and training among those who are exploiting (as artisans) these resources [2]; and in many countries, armed groups are used to control areas where rich minerals are found [3]; blocking thus, any development programs. They utilize these minerals to fuel the conflicts.

1. Poor leadership of African States in managing the states’ natural resources:

Many African Heads of the states have shown little achievements in managing their natural resources. Some sign unfair contracts in total opacity with corporate in which there is no respect for local people’s human rights and with no social development projects in the provision. Most money received from mining activities ends in the pockets of the people in power and in their secret bank accounts in the world (in British Virgin Islands or in Switzerland; for example). When they do this, they do not care about building social infrastructures. Schools for children to be educated for the future of the state and for the good of Africa are not their priority.

2. Lack of skills and training among those who are exploiting mine:

Some nationals are being given rights to operate some small–scale mining in order for them get some earnings to live on. This category does not have any development plan. They are not involved in any infrastructure-building programs. Because of lack of training and education, most of them, in this category, do not respect any national or international norms regarding mining regulations. As in Congo DRC, over 120.000 children are being exploited in mining in Katanga province alone in this sector.

3. In many countries, armed groups control areas where rich minerals are:

Illegal groups, armed by nationals or multinationals, are sent to control areas where rich minerals are found. Indeed, several armed groups will be fighting one another over the mines areas killing innocent people and causing massive displacements of populations. In Congo Kinshasa, in general and in the Eastern part, in particular, these armed groups have been so active that they make the state not to be able to control this part of the country. Consequently, this makes it not possible to implement any program that can help alleviate peoples’ misery and poverty; and to respect human dignity. It is in this environment that rape practice and massive and systematic sexual violence against women are utilized as war weapon.

Following the above said, some new efforts and concrete actions are to be direly initiated and experimented.

              Indeed, there is a sad paradox that shows that it is in this part of the world where natural resources are the most immensely located that the poorest communities are found. This makes some observers to conclude that,” The African rich natural resources instead of being a blessing for the communities, is seen, rather, as a curse for them”. As they [natural riches] become, now, the cause of all the people’s miseries, conflicts and catastrophe (political, economic and, environmental, social-humanitarian).

              In the new Approach (Extractive industries- Governments-Civil Society/Local Communities), it is indeed, dire and necessary to work and involve local communities in the extractive- industry activities around areas of operations to advance capacity building on their social rights and responsibilities. The extractive industries (national and multinational) are to be encouraged and often reminded about commitment to comply with the norms and standards of social accountabilities.

               Many local communities in Africa still ignore the vital rights that they have to benefit from the extractive industries activities. And some natural -resources companies, as well, do ignore their obligations and rights in the countries of their operations.

  1. Natural  Resources and Extractive Industries Related Norms ( National and International )

In order to regulate natural resources exploitation and activities, some rules, laws and principles are set, formulated and published in order to be respected and observed by all those who are concerned: Local communities, extractive industries and governments; and Civil Society Leaders.

The national and international principles and regulation on natural resources standards aim at  advancing/encouraging good governance and transparency in these activities by paying fair taxes /loyalties to the host-States; by being involved in social development programs and by respecting human rights and environment  including World Heritage Properties in the areas of their activities.

Many related international norms intend to enhance social accountabilities/responsibilities of extractive industries (national and international) vis a vis local communities and environment.

Some regulation laws and norms are:

EITI:  The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative;

OECD:  Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development;

UN Voluntary Principles …etc



a. EITI:

The Extractive industries Transparency Initiative approach started in 2003 and was finalized in 2007. These criteria are considered as the most concise statement of the initiative. EITI aims at raising awareness of how natural resources are being exploited; and at encouraging/advancing good governance in the way they have to be managed. They are mainly 12 principles and 6 criteria.


In these norms, some common principles of corporate governance are emphasized to advance:

  • Rights and equitable treatment of shareholders;
  • Interests of other stakeholders ( Whistle-blowers protection )



The principles

   ➢ The principles make  reference to the rights of shareholders, whether established by law or through mutual agreement;

   ➢ A new principle that advocates for protection of whistle-blowers, including institutions through which their complaints  or allegations can be addressed and provides for confidential access to the company;

   ➢ Social Responsibilities

c.  UN Voluntary Principles on Principles on Security and Human Rights: Performance Indicators

     Launched in 2000, the principles provide guidance to companies operating in zones of conflicts or fragile states so that they can ensure that security forces- public or private protecting the companies’ facilities and premises operate in a way that protects the company’s assets while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

   2. Local Communities and Environmental Rights


       Social responsibilities in extractive industries


When the extractive industries start implementing their activities, they, necessarily and likely, find the local communities, trees, animals and water flows in their natural environment. These natural assets and properties have to be protected and safeguarded.  

      The extractive activities in the area, if not well controlled or managed, they will even disturb seriously the life style    and existence of the species and bio-diversities. Local communities will lose their small-scale farming lands; and this will destroy their rhythm of living; bringing them thus more hunger, poverty and misery.
The local community and their livestock have the right to live. Should it be decided to remove them from the area, another appropriate location or site is to be found for their re-location with access to essentials (schools, medical center and other social infrastructures) with human dignity.

3. Social Dialogue

The extractive industries activities are the major cause of many conflicts among the stakeholders (local communities, extractive industries and governments). When the extractive industries bring their investments, they sign contracts; and they are given lands to explore and exploit natural resources. Often, the land that used to belong to the local communities to live and survive on will be taken away. Many will be deprived of theselands and will be displaced by force to remote areas with no access to basic and vital essentials.   

Most extractive industries say they pay taxes and other obligations to the governments for social programs. The government will say that it is the companies’ responsibility to engage in the social and environment work.

In the “Social Dialogue” approach, it is necessary to help all the stakeholders to learn and know about their rights/obligations and their responsibilities.    

The Approach intends:

– To support mining-affected communities in working for the realization of mining company social plans and to strengthen network with other civil society leaders to share experiences in Africa;

– To organize regular contact meetings with the community leaders to assist them in their dialogue process with companies and government representatives in the social developments efforts;

– To expand the interventions with specific companies that are affecting African communities, into the regional operations of these companies ( for example, companies operating in DRC, Mali, Niger, CAR, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia Tanzania, Swaziland etc… ) to highlight and raise social responsibilities  and human rights issues in their natural resources exploitation activities.

– To work in building the capacity of local communities affected by the extractive  industries to hold these companies accountable for non compliance with human rights norms and standards and to enhance their advocacy  initiatives in social development efforts.

   4. Lacal Communities Human Rights Awareness in Extractive Industries

       It is always observed and reported that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of many      local communities who had been living on lands before the extractive activities are seriously violated by these industries.

Their properties (land, livestock, dignity…) are ruined by the mining exploration, implementation and/or by exploitation operations.

Some are displaced from their traditional milieus leaving behind them, their farms, houses, schools, medical units; and even little infrastructure they had had. They are forced to go to restart new living at zero level where they do not belong.

    When the government has signed the mining agreements with the multinationals companies (corporate) who come to extract the rich natural resources (minerals, timber, waters, hydro-energy …) local communities lose most of their rights. Official- government agents (security agents, police, corporate- interest agents) work together to chase the local populations from what used to be their home/land. Most of time, they are sent where there is no clean water, no food, no school and no medical system. Here, they are depicted exactly like refugees in their own country. Due to this situation, the displaced are totally at high risk in all aspects.

And  most of time, there is total lack of transparency in the agreements/contracts between governments and the extractive industries.

Indeed, there is a lot of similar extractive activities issues in all African regions; with the negative impact on:

➢ Local communities

  • Displacement of local communities;
  • Interruption of people’s vital farming activities;
  • No schooling for children;
  • No medical care system; and
  • No place for worship or recreation

➢ Environment

  • Trees are totally destroyed on the mining sites. They are cut down , affecting thus, ecosystem and contribute to Climate Change;
  • Air is polluted due to unregulated acids and other chemicals substances ;
  • Streams and rivers are polluted; and fish and other aquatic living things are killed by acids

A lot of mining activities in Africa harm human life and environment. It is for this reason that it is believed that this new “local Communities – Governments- Extractive Industries” Dialogue Approach will alleviate or bring remedy to this complex sad reality sequence:

Natural Resources/Wealth – – -> Misery- – -> Poverty- – – > Hunger – – – > DEATH

    5. Some concrete Actions to be taken

In the efforts to bring peace and to manage natural-resources related misunderstandings/conflicts, as it has been observed, it is essential and advised to work in the way to approach all the stakeholders involved in the operations reality. The stakeholders are local communities, state/governments and extractive industries.

The rights (and obligations) of each, as enshrined in the national or international instruments, are to be learned and taught in a strong and sustainable campaigns and programs.

This “awareness- campaign –concrete action” approach will lead to commitment to :

   – Protect environment and the World Heritage in Africa;

   – Clean drinking water;

   – Clean air and water ( in streams, rivers and lakes );

   – Create/build Medical centre/care;

   – Establish essential social infrastructure;

   – Plan to plant trees  to replace or improve those which have been affected by the extractive activities in the areas of  operations.

Golden MISABIKO                           feb5, 2014

International Human Rights Defender

Natural Resources Expert

Civil Society Leader/Congo

MEA 2006 Nominee for Human Rights

Person Resource