A coalition of 12 African countries has sounded the alarm that a possible plan by US President Donald Trump to suspend federal US rules on so-called “conflict minerals” could lead to an increase in violence and unrest in central Africa.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which includes Rwanda, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said it is “highly concerned” by President Trump’s possible reform.
The conference says it could contribute to “the resurgence of armed groups controlling and exploiting minerals. This might ultimately lead to a generalised proliferation of terrorist groups, trans-boundary money laundry and illicit financial flows in the region.”
Earlier this month, in an effort to entice more business lending in the United States, US President Trump signed an executive order to roll back key Obama-era financial regulations put in place after the 2008 Wall Street financial crash.
Called the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the law put the regulation of the country’s financial industries in the hands of the federal government and was designed to increase the transparency of US financial institutions.
Trump, however, has called it a “disaster” and has vowed to “do a big number” in reforming the law.
On Tuesday Feb. 14, Trump approved the repeal of a Dodd-Frank measure which required energy and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments.
Rumoured also to be on the list of Dodd-Frank reforms is a provision requiring companies to disclose whether their products contain minerals originating from potential African conflict zones.
The rule on these so-called “conflict minerals” include gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, which are integral for electronics, aviation components and jewellery.
If these minerals, according to the rule, originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo, or any adjoining country, companies must file a report outlining their due diligence in assuring the minerals’ origin are conflict-free.
According to a leaked draft seen by Reuters, President Trump is considering suspending the rule on conflict minerals for two years.
Intense competition for the Congo’s vast mineral wealth fuelled two decades of conflict in the country’s eastern provinces, including the Second Congo War which lasted from 1998 until 2003, which killed millions due to hunger and disease.
Although tech companies world-wide have pledged to root out conflict minerals from their supply chains, some belong to business lobby groups like The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers, who in 2014 mounted a legal challenge against the Dodd-Frank ruling.
As TechRepublic reports, there simply aren’t enough dedicated conflict-free smelters in the world to satisfy global demand for minerals, and the Dodd-Frank rule on minerals, the legal case argued, overburdens companies with costs and violates First Amendment freedoms by forcing companies to condemn their own products.
International campaign groups, including Human Rights Watch urged President Trump to keep the Dodd-Frank provision in place, saying repealing the measure would undermine global and regional efforts to stamp-out conflict mineral mining.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region said the Dodd-Frank rule initially imposed a “de facto embargo” on the region after it was approved in August 2012, but it has since developed its own programme to trace mineral origins which led to a revival in global exports.
If the Dodd-Frank rule on minerals is suspended it says, its ability to enforce its regionally developped mineral certifications will be weakened.