Understanding Transnational Crime in Conflict-Affected Environments: The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Illicit Minerals Trading Network
Research approaches to the subject of violent protracted conflict in DRC and other areas of sub-Saharan Africa largely focus upon the relationships between the prominent state, sub-state and non-state actors; the role of the international community in its purported attempts to mitigate the conflict (Auteserre, 2010); and the phenomena of so-called ethnic conflict and intra-state war. Within this framework, the literature commonly seeks to identify a driver or set of drivers underpinning the conflict.2 For example, Camm (2011) argues that longstanding tribal land ownership disputes weathered by colonization, decolonization, and then nationalization (under Mobutu) have clearly played an enduring role in eastern DRC’s (and also Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi’s) instability. Quinn, on the other hand, focuses upon the political-economic framework of the region, and the legacy of post-colonial and
post-cold war regional ethnic conflict in the era of a western pro-democracy agenda advanced in the developing world primarily by international financial institutions (Quinn, 2004). Gondola’s historical account proposes an international politicization of DRC’s vast mineral wealth and the employment of neocolonial strategies by western government to ensure continued access. Implicit in this is the intentional erosion of DRC’s domestic political system (Gondola, 2002). Nest (2011) also provides an exacting empirical account of the interests surrounding Congolese coltan (or tantalum), while Dunn (2003) and Braekman (2003) articulate in detail the violence employed by various DRC and Rwandan militant groups in their pursuit of eastern DRC minerals. As argued by Nest, it is clear that the DRC conflict is multifaceted,3 as are its drivers, and while the contestation over resources cannot be understood as the sole cause of violence, it certainly may be considered a key element. Thus the objective of this chapter is to better understand the relational dynamics and organizational structure of the illicit trading networks involved in the extraction, trafficking, and sale of minerals originating within DRC. The research will identify the key drivers within this network who in turn may be considered in part responsible for the continued violence and instability throughout DRC and the region.