Carrying a Piece of Congo in Our Pockets: Global Complicity to Congo’s Sexual Violence and the Conflict Minerals Trade


DeVoe, Anne. 2012. “Carrying a Piece of Congo in Our Pockets: Global Complicity to Congo’s Sexual Violence and the Conflict Minerals Trade.” Seattle Journal of Social Justice 10 (1): 463-507.

Author: Anne DeVoe


This article argues that the connection between mass rape and conflict minerals does exist, and it explores the possible steps the global community can take to break this connection. The article is structured to give the reader a preliminary background of rape as a tool of war, and then to explore different methods to fight this strategy—first through legislation here in the United States and the possible use of international law, and then through legislative, judicial, and other peace-construction methods inside Congo. It is important to note that there is not just one solution to ending conflict in Congo. Rather than discourage action, the fact that there are several different solutions should compel action all the more—with the knowledge that we all have different roles to fill.

Part II of this article briefly explores two separate histories: (1) the history of colonization in Congo and the pattern of resource exploitation for the benefit of a few and to the detriment of the Congolese people, and (2) the legal history of mass rape and its recent development in international law as its own separate, punishable crime of war. These separate histories connect with the international implications of the current use of mass rape to control and exploit Congo’s resource-wealth. Part II also examines how the recent developments in international law on sexual violence in conflict can be applied to Congo’s current situation.

Part III of this article urges the effective implementation of the new US conflict minerals law as a key step to stop the current mass rape and killing of civilians in Congo. It should be supported, strengthened, and used to certify the “chain of custody”41  of conflict minerals in order to cut off funding to armed groups. Additionally, the international community should explore the possibility of holding companies legally accountable under international law for their complicity in the conflict minerals trade and their implicit support of mass rape in Congo.

Part IV of this article presses for the international community to support intra-national justice in the Congo through the creation of a tribunal, a truth and reconciliation commission, and an effective legislative and judicial system. Additionally, there are many local NGOs that are working to change the current situation by providing medical, economic, and empowerment assistance to victims of sexual violence in Congo. Because much of the world uses Congo’s resources and therefore contributes to its internal violence, the international community has a duty to help consolidate the efforts to achieve prevention of sexual violence and to work toward justice for individual victims and survivors of sexual violence.


  • Mineral trade amounts to $180 million/year in the DRC (480)
  • US policy requires that companies disclose use of conflict minerals with market consequences; The government advises companies on how to exercise due diligence and formalize own supply chain, exacts punitive measures for noncompliance and maps problem areas every 180 days (483) 
    • Chinese companies swopped in without the same moral qualms (488)
  •  In 2010, President Kabila suspended all mining operations to try to stabilize the area, but military is decentralized and some factions just stepped down, allowing others to resort to rebel tactics and rent seeking behavior (465)
  •  The UN Special Representative recommends that companies continue to invest in the Congo but need third-party audits; the only way to end the war is to make it less profitable (489)
  • World market prices increased, making matters worse as groups try to consolidate control
  • Armed groups, struggling to keep mines, use rape as a means of control

 “In July and August 2010, both the Mai-Mai and the FDLR raped more than 300 women and children in Walikale territory… These attacks occurred despite the Congolese government’s deployment of thousands of soldiers to the region to enforce a presidential moratorium on mining and to restore order. Even more troubling, UN peacekeepers reported that Congolese army troops were themselves committing mass rape, killing civilians, and looting villages during the summer of 2010.” (464)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Economies, Extractive Industries, International Law, Justice, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, Rape Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2012

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