SOMO published its new report ‘Cobalt Blues’ today. It includes a contribution by African Resources Watch (AFREWATCH) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Emmanuel Umpala Nkumba, director of the nonprofit organisation AFREWATCH, discusses his collaboration with SOMO, which focuses on capacity building and the promotion and protection of human rights.

Emmanuel Umpala Nkumba is the former director of the DRC human rights organisation, ACIDH, whom SOMO has worked together with for ten years in the field of research that covers mining companies in Africa.

AFREWATCH is a nonprofit organisation that was established in 2013 by the most important socio-economic rights activists as a reaction to the discrimination that certain communities in the DRC faced over a period of many years. AFREWATCH is also active in the natural resources sector that covers the mining, oil and gas extraction, and water industries. “Emmanuel is the driving force behind AFREWATCH. They provide high-quality research as a result of their many years of working with communities and researching human rights violations”, notes SOMO-researcher Mark van Dorp.

Cobalt blues

Environmental pollution and human rights violations in Katanga’s copper and cobalt mines

Equal access

The organisation strives for equal access to natural resources in Africa in general, and in the DRC in particular, by holding governments and mining companies accountable. AFREWATCH promotes human rights by offering trainings to communities, producing and disseminating publications, media coverage, offering workshops and participating in conferences. They also defend human rights through monitoring, research, supporting victims and advocacy work. One example of their research work is AFREWATCH’s contribution to the Cobalt Blues’ report, which investigates environmental pollution and human rights violations in the copper and cobalt mines in Katanga Province. AFREWATCH has done field research on a number of foreign mining companies.

Community capacity building

Emmanuel: “the collaboration between AFREWATCH and SOMO has made it possible for us not only to organise capacity building in local communities in Katanga, but also in communities in Tumbwe. In two villages, two committees of local communities were recently established. These committees act as an interface between communities and the mining companies Kipoi Mining Society (SEK) and Golden Minerals Africa SPRL. The communities are now better able to negotiate on issues such as community development or access to basic social services such as water, electricity, education, employment, health care, etc.”

Promoting and protecting human rights

Emmanuel is very enthusiastic about the collaboration between SOMO and AFREWATCH. “This has led to the establishment of a framework for the exchange and discussion of the promotion and protection of human rights. We are hoping for a fruitful continuation of this cooperation in capacity building of local communities, in the areas of advocacy and the monitoring of social obligations, the environment and taxes, but also for ongoing investigations of mining companies.

AFREWATCH’s dream of the future

AFREWATCH strives to compel companies and the government to include the needs of local communities in their operating procedures and integrate them into the management of natural resources in order to protect the public’s right to a healthy environment. Emmanuel: “We also strive to get governments and companies to support community development mechanisms”.

The “Responsible Mining for Electronics” Round table

AFREWATCH was invited by the GoodElectronics Network to participate in a strategy session with civil society organisations on 18 April 2016 in Amsterdam. Emmanuel will speak at the GoodElectronics Round Table “Responsible Mining for Electronics” on 19 April. This meeting will be hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is being organised in collaboration with SOMO, Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and the Stop Child Labour coalition.