The Congo is the nexus of corporate greed, corrupt and morally bankrupt leadership and foreign political gamesmanship. Now Peter Eichstaedt, a veteran journalist and author who has real experience on the ground in Africa, has written a book that deserves your attention entitled Consuming The Congo.
The United States does not have clean hands in the Congo. I covered the involvement of leaders of the religious right in America exploiting the Congo by taking over mining interests. Self-proclaimed religious leader Pat Robertson was one of many who tried to spread the word of God by getting in the mining business in Africa. I was present for meetings among would be African strongmen and arms dealers who offered to supply weapons in exchange for major shares of extractive wealth. Conflict diamonds, conflict minerals, conflict gold all lure private security firms that will trade the promise of a share of the wealth for assistance to power to any strongman in mineral rich Africa.
Eichstaedt cogently explains why everyone wants a piece of the Congo. He writes that every time you use a cell phone or computer, you could be contributing to the death toll in the eastern Congo. He documents the fact that the eastern Congo is currently the most violent region on earth. This environmentally sensitive region enjoys no semblance of law, but, because it is resource rich in the critical elements used in sophisticated electronic circuitry, the Congo has become home to what Eichstaedt describes as a war-ravaged region where conflict minerals are mined under nightmarish conditions. He also has ideas for taking the profit motive out of these activities.
Consuming the Congo is an excellent book because Eichstaedt ties the bloodshed and abuse to our consumption of the products that use these minerals. He reports on the millions of Congolese citizens who have been forced into war and mining and who have died because of the abundance of resources nature has provided the country. The most compelling part of his work are the stories he collected as he interviewed survivors of villages destroyed by war. He captures the fear of desperate miners who had to deal with militias and renegade army units. These forces kill and rape with impunity. Eichstaedt shows that when you click on your Amazon app to order Consuming the Congo, there are connections among your life and lives in the Congo that are worth your contemplation.
Formerly senior editor for Uganda Radio Network and Africa editor for the Institute of War and Peace in Reporting in The Hague, Eichstaedt traveled extensively in Africa to cover war crimes and trials. He is dedicated to revealing the stories behind human rights abuses and won the 2010 Colorado Book Award for history for his book First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. He is the author of If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans and Pirate State: Inside Somalia’s Terrorism at Sea. His home base is near Denver, Colorado. He is currently on assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan.