Sexual Violence, Coltan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo


Whitman, Shelly. 2010. “Sexual Violence, Coltan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” In Critical Environmental Security: Rethinking the Links between Natural Resources and Political Violence, edited by Schnurr, Matthew A., and Larry A. Swatuk, 1–17. Halifax, NS, Canada: Dalhousie University Centre for Foreign Policy Studies.

Author: Shelly Whitman


 “There is a local Kiswahili saying that says “Congo is a big country – you will eat it until you tire away!” This is precisely what many armed groups, neighbouring countries, Western states and multinational companies have done over the past 100 years to the DRC. The raping of the country’s natural resources has coincided with the increased sexual violence endured by the women of the country. I will contend that it is not the abundance or scarcity of resources per se that determines conflict and violence, but the way they are governed, who has access to them and for what purposes they are used.

The DRC is an example of the new issues that face environmental security analysts. Environmental security must take account of the human security elements that challenge our understandings of the connection among the environment, resource extraction and conflict. How are civilians targeted deliberately in this quest for natural resources that often underpins and drives the conflicts that currently exist? Failure to see the connections has resulted in a failure adequately to seek peaceful and meaningful long-term solutions to conflicts such as those occurring in the DRC.” (Whitman, 2010, p. 2).

 “How are civilians targeted deliberately in this quest for natural resources that often underpins and drives the conflicts that currently exist?” (p. 2).

“While the various foreign (and domestic) armies that have been involved in the DRC claim security as the main justification for their presence, all have been accused of the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the DRC” (p. 5).

Price of coltan before PlayStation 2 and laptops used it: $30/lb; after: $380 (p. 10)

Led to coltan rush in eastern DRC; violence increases when speculation surges

Survey: companies feel they can’t do anything else, pass the buck to suppliers and the Congolese government (p. 12).

Ban on extraction and sale won’t solve anything—regulation and protection so it can be used for good, accountability for both extraction and sexual violence (p. 13).


Topics: Armed Conflict, Economies, Environment, Extractive Industries, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, Governance, Multi-National Corporations, Peacebuilding, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2010

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