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Congo's tragedy: the war the world forgot
Posted: Sunday, May 7, 2006

In a country the size of Western Europe, a war rages that has lasted eight years and cost four million lives. Rival militias inflict appalling suffering on the civilian population, and what passes for political leadership is powerless to stop it. This is Congo, and the reason for the conflict - control of minerals essential to the electronic gadgetry on which the developed world depends - is what makes our blindness to the horror doubly shaming. Johann Hari reports from the killing fields of central Africa

Published: 05 May 2006

This is the story of the deadliest war since Adolf Hitler's armies marched across Europe - a war that has not ended. But is also the story of a trail of blood that leads directly to you: to your remote control, to your mobile phone, to your laptop and to your diamond necklace. In the TV series Lost, a group of plane crash survivors believe they are stranded alone on a desert island, until one day they discover a dense metal cable leading out into the ocean and the world beyond. The Democratic Republic of Congo is full of those cables, mysterious connections that show how a seemingly isolated tribal war is in reality something very different.

This war has been dismissed as an internal African implosion. In reality it is a battle for coltan, diamonds, cassiterite and gold, destined for sale in London, New York and Paris. It is a battle for the metals that make our technological society vibrate and ring and bling, and it has already claimed four million lives in five years and broken a population the size of Britain's. No, this is not only a story about them. This - the tale of a short journey into the long Congolese war we in the West have fostered, fuelled and funded - is a story about you.
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