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American consumers can help end Congo's circle of violence

Opinion: Conflict minerals are used in everything from mobile phones to jewelry. It's time Americans demanded transparency.

Clearly, there is a host of issues that drive the conflict in the Congo, including security sector reform, gender-based violence, land tenure, poor institutional capacity at the local and national level and weak rule of law with a court system that has neither the resources or clout to address civilian or military corruption and abuses.

We as concerned Americans cannot raise our voices to solve Congo’s land tenure problem. We cannot enact sweeping security sector reform by using social media and our consumer dollars to get armed militants to lay down their weapons. We cannot pass legislation that mandates the Congolese government and judiciary to comply with U.S. standards of good-governance or rule of law.

However, what we can do is tap the resources of those U.S. citizens and government representatives who understand the suffering that takes place in the Congo, who understand the linkages of that suffering with our own progress and our own culture and who understand that there is not only an inherent wrong in that linkage but a responsibility to fix it.

Nothing sparks change faster in the United States than a consumer-led revolution. Consumers are speaking out and the U.S. Congress has now responded. Asking for transparency in the mineral supply chains of products so prevalent in our lives is not irrational and certainly not to be dismissed as simplistic or idealistic.

It is actionable, it is achievable and it is a common-sense solution to chipping away the myriad issues that fuel the conflict and violence in the Congo. We at the Enough Project are not claiming to have found a panacea to end war and rape in the Congo.

But we are claiming that we understand that the only way to eat an elephant in your path is with one bite at a time, and that the status quo in the conflict minerals trade in the Congo is prohibitive to any path to peace.

Aaron Hall is a Congo Policy Analyst for the Enough Project in Washington, D.C.