Locating Congo on a Map and Background
Begin a discussion with students about Congo by asking them questions, such as:
1. Have you heard of the Congo?
2. What have you heard about it?
3. Does anyone know where it is located on the map?
Use a map to locate the DRC. Discuss the background of the Congo with your students.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), formerly Zaire (and, before that, the Belgian Congo). Lying on the Equator, almost in the middle of the continent of Africa, the DROC has the third-largest population and the second-largest land area in sub-Saharan Africa. It includes the Congo River Basin, which encompasses an area of almost 400,000 square miles. The DRC has cobalt, copper, cadmium, petroleum, zinc, diamonds, manganese, tin, gold, silver, bauxite, iron ore, hydroelectric power, timber, coffee, palm oil, rubber, tea, manioc, bananas, corn, fruits, sugarcane, and much more. There are cement, mining, diamond, and light industries that process consumer products.
However, most of the population is poor. Life expectancy for males is 47 years and for females it is 51 years. Malaria, AIDS, and other diseases are common and keep the population from experiencing explosive growth. The infant mortality rate is 101.6 per 1,000, and there is one doctor for every 15,584 people. Most health care is concentrated in a few large cities. The needs of the people and the country have been neglected.
1. Why are foreign nations attracted to the Congo? (answer: vast mineral wealth)
2. What is the main reason for the exploitation of the Congo? (possible answers: a wealth of natural resources, corrupt leaders and economic interests of multinational companies that only care about making money, etc.)
3. Is the government protecting and caring for its citizens?
Human Rights Abuses
Explain to your students that human rights abuses continue in the Congo.
Þ These abuses include slavery, torture, rape, and the use of child soldiers. Miners make only a few Euros a day and are forced to work in very dangerous conditions.
Þ Since 1998, 5.4 million have died as a result of the war in Congo, making it the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II.
Þ The Congo is considered the most dangerous place in the world right now for girls and women. Since January 2009, approximately 900,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict and human rights abuses.
Þ Presently, rebel groups, militias and government soldiers are fighting each other for control of natural resources, especially mines. These forces, including the army, are the perpetrators of human rights abuses, using rape, torture, and slavery to control Congo’s citizens.
Do we have anything to do with the DRC? You Bet! Our laptops, mobile phones, and other electronics are soaked in Congolese blood!
Minerals found in mines in the Congo:
• Tin: Used inside cell phones and all electronic products as solder on circuit boards. Worldwide, 53% of tin worldwide is used as a solder, the vast majority in electronics.
• Tantalum (often called coltan): Used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones, 65-80% of the world's tantalum is used in electronic products.
• Tungsten: Used to make cell phones vibrate.
• Gold: Used mainly in jewellery, gold is also a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle.
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