A Worsening Crisis in Congo

And the Threat It Poses to U.S. National Security

Congolese opposition supporters chant slogans during a march to pressure Congolese President Joseph Kabila to step down, September 19, 2016. Kenny Katombe / Reuters

For the last two decades, fighting has plagued the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in 5.4 million deaths, rampant corruption, and one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. The instability has already spread beyond the east as a constitutional and electoral crisis propels the fragile situation toward a larger conflict, and it is now threatening to destabilize a mineral-rich area known as Katanga. 

Katanga is home to 50 to 60 percent of the world’s reserves of cobalt, representing the largest global supply of the mineral, as well as significant quantities of copper, and a conflict there would seriously affect U.S., as well as European, national security. The Pentagon has identified cobalt and copper as “strategic and critical minerals” for the production of military planes, missile guidance systems, and other hardware. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, cobalt is a critical material

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