RAPAPORT… Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) was one of several speakers addressing a hearing on the 2009 budget for the U.S. State Department this week. Brownback alerted financial planners to the conflicts in diamond-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC.) The senator said a bipartisan bill on “conflict commodities” would be forthcoming in a week or two that could eventually track DRC minerals, much in the way diamonds are tracked following conflicts in West Africa.
“A couple of things I want to bring to your attention and I know you’ve got a great interest and focus on this,” Brownback said.
“In eastern [DRC] you continue — we continue to have a huge amount of death and suffering there.
“Much of the conflict has pulled away as far as the forces, but the forces driving conflict in the area are economic now. We had up last week testifying an OB/GYN in this region that’s seeing 10 women a day that are the subject of gang rapes and sexual violence and most of it, he says, you can track where the mines are and that’s where my patients come from,” Brownback told the hearing.
“And it is gangs that want the coltan mine, the cobalt, the tin, the gold from these areas and then they use the sexual violence as a tool to drive people away and then they mine the operations.”
“And I just want to put that on your radar screen, because I really think this — we can deal with this, but we’re going to have to get at the root of the economic problem, which is just trying to drive people away from these mining operations,” he said.
The meeting was led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and addressed appropriations for foreign operations and related programs in the coming fiscal year.