Consuming The Congo: War And Conflict Minerals In The World’s Deadliest Place, by Peter Eichstaedt
This is by no means a bad book, but it is a book that is very disappointing and one that reveals that the author likely did not know quite what he was doing with this book except feeling the need to pad a bit to reach its length and that the person who gave this book its title likely did not do due diligence in reading the book to make sure that it actually delivers what it promises. The author appears to be some journalist who is attached to European norms of global governance (not my favorite thing) and unable to stay on topic, which makes this book a bit frustrating because the author does not do a good job at making his various rambles form part of a coherent whole, and after presenting this book as if the Congo has a great deal to do with the electronics that we have in the West, the author manages to present evidence that undercuts these claims and that states that Congo may only be responsible for some 5% of the West’s tin supply, making it a sufficiently miniscule source of such materials so that it can safely be disregarded, and so it is.
This book is just over 200 pages and is divided into fifteen relatively short chapters. The author begins with a map of Congo and then discusses the Congo as the gates of hell in a Prologue. After that there is a discussion of the author’s experiences in arguing in a Mandro hut (1) and visiting a village of skulls that had suffered repeated massacres (2) as well as viewing the gold that was mined on bloody ground (3). After that the author discusses the chaos (4) and rape (5) that were faced by many people in Congo over the past couple of decades. After that the author, for some reason, looks at the agony of Abyei in South Sudan (6) as well as a look at the division of Sudan before South Sudanese independence (7) before looking at the armies and exploitation of Congo again (8) as well as the woes of the region of Walikale (9). After that there is a discussion about the fight over the control of the flow of minerals to the outside world by various groups (10), the author’s journey into the coltan mining country (11), and the realities of the lives of refugees in Congo (12). There are then chapters of the Mai-Mai and the search for charcoal even in national parks (13), the falling apart of life in Congo (14), and the search for resolution in Congo’s conflicts (15) before the book closes with acknowledgments, notes, and an index.
Congo may have been the deadliest place on earth when the author was writing the book, but that fact alone does not give a reason why the rest of the world is responsible for doing anything about it, especially when the supply of minerals that come from there are such a small portion of those used by the West for technological items? Perhaps the author thinks that the human interest of the Congo and the immense suffering of its unfortunate people is enough to sustain the interest of the West in the subject, but Congo has been suffering for centuries for a variety of reasons and the world has not paid a lot of attention so far, so the author is probably mistaken in thinking that the suffering of the last few years is enough for the world to start to care about the Congo to any great degree. The United States does not view it as a place of vital concern and if hundreds of years of suffering and millions of deaths is not enough than it is likely that nothing would be enough until and unless Congo did start playing a more decisive role with regards to its conflict minerals.