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Kids Are Dying In Congolese Gold Mines, And No One Is Held Accountable

Underage workers wind up digging for gold, and too often dying in the process. Family traditions are part of why no one is ever held responsible.

Children at work in a Congolese gold mine
Children at work in a Congolese gold mine
Jean Nondo

KAMITUGA - In this Congolese mining city, children are working illegally -- and dying as a result.

Over the past few months alone, at least ten youths were reported to have died, crushed by collapsing rocks or asphyxiated inside the mines of Kamituga, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their heartbroken parents are left to just take compensation money -- no one is considering suing the directors of the mines.

One father, a local pastor, lost both his sons, aged 16 and 18. “One of the people in charge of a gold mine gave me $3,000 after they died," he recalls, adding only that his eldest son had recently graduated from high school.

According to a local activist Benoit Mwati, ten boys died in 2012 from collapsing rocks or asphyxia in the mining sector of Kamituga. “A 17-year-old died from asphyxia in a gold mine tunnel. The owner bought the family a wooden house. I think it's worth $1,500. There was no trial,” Mwati remembers.

However, the Civil Code (Article 258) stipulates that “any act from a person causing another person damages, compels said person to make amends.” Article 260 adds that a person must be held accountable for their actions and the actions of those they are responsible for.


Assistant Deputy Commissioner Eugene Kakisingi of the local mining authority says work in the mines is the worst job a child can do, and cites a statute strictly prohibiting "any kind of labor that may jeopardize by its nature, work conditions, the personal health, growth, security, dignity and morality of a child,” says Kakisingi.

But, as they search for gold in the valley of the nearby Mobale River, both children and adults in their overalls -- armed with a pickaxe and a headlamp -- come and go from the depths of the earth. The children eagerly dig for their treasure, but are oblivious to the risks they face when emulating the adults. Most of them work at the surface level, sorting out the gold from the stones.

Head of the nearby “Social Vision” association Pappy Kajakiba says the owners of the mines where kids are dying "need to be prosecuted on charges of manslaughter" for failing to prevent the deaths. For now, the Civil Society Organization has condemned child labor in mines in monthly meetings for child protection, but to no avail.

One reason why the parents don’t file formal complaints is pressure from the extended family. The pastor who lost his two sons last year explained that local custom forbids taking action -- “because lots of kids are bound to work in the mines of their fathers, uncles or elder brothers,” explains Benoit Mwati.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Poland's Break With Ukraine Weakens All Enemies Of Russia — Starting With Poland

Poland’s decision to stop sending weapons to Ukraine is being driven by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's short-term electoral calculus. Yet the long-term effects on the world stage could deeply undermine the united NATO front against Russia, and the entire Western coalition.

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Bartosz T. Wieliński


WARSAW — Poland has now moved from being the country that was most loudly demanding that arms be sent to Ukraine, to a country that has suddenly announced it was withholding military aid. Even if Poland's actions won't match Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s words, the government has damaged the standing of our country in the region, and in NATO.

“We are no longer providing arms to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland,” the prime minister declared on Polsat news on Wednesday evening. He didn’t specify which type of arms he was referring to, but his statement was quickly spread on social media by leading figures of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

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When news that Poland would be withholding arms to Ukraine made their way to the headlines of the most important international media outlets, no politician from PiS stepped in to refute the prime minister’s statement. Which means that Morawiecki said exactly what he meant to say.

The era of tight Polish-Ukrainian collaboration, militarily and politically, has thus come to an end.

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