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Corporate Social Responsibility means, amongst other things, not arming militias

Human Rights Watch issued an amazing report today, titled “The Curse of Gold”, which focuses on the role of multinational mining companies in supporting the ongoing conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The report focuses specifically on AngloGold Ashanti, a South African/Ghanaian company that’s part of Anglo American, a large multinational. The report details payments from AngloGold to the FNI (Front for National Integration, a Lendu militia active in the Ituri region), payments which have helped arm militants and sustain conflict in the area.

The timing of the HRW report is clearly designed to embarrass AngloGold as they co-chair the African Economic Summit in Cape Town this week. And, in fairness to Anglo, they state that they have no “formal” relationship with FNI, and that they’ve made payments “under protest and duress”. This is surely true – while AngloGold has a contract with the government of the DRC, the Kinshasa government has no control over Mongbwalu, where the mining is taking place. FNI, which currently controls the region is extorting payments from AngloGold.

But Anglo does have a choice – don’t mine in the Ituri region until security can be assured so they don’t have to arm militants in exchange for mining rights. HRW hopes that Anglo will be shamed out of eastern Congo, much in the same way Metalor Technologies – a Swiss refining company, was persuaded to stop importing “Ugandan” gold. HRW helpfull pointed out, in an earlier report, that since Uganda has no known gold reserves, “Ugandan” gold was gold mined illegaly in Congo and smuggled out of the border. Faced with overwhelming evidence, Metalor announced a few days ago that they would stop importing Ugandan gold.

Owukori of Black Looks, who I’m interviewing in a couple of hours, has an excellent post on the report, putting these revelations in context and talking about the killings, rapes and other acts of brutality that have been reality in eastern DRC for the past decade.

What does it mean to blog for human rights? It means linking to stories like this one and making sure the mainstream media – and other bloggers – pay attention.

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