Pique'n'yer interest 

Bringing conflict minerals out of the darkness

Far away from the snow draped mountains of Whistler, the excited chatter about the 2010 Winter Games and the tired smiles of people slowly coming out of the recession - a bloody war is waging in the depths of Africa. In the so-called Heart of Darkness.

It is a war that has been characterized since its birth in 1998 by the most despicable human crimes imaginable: not just by bombs and tanks and guns, but by rape, sex slaves, mutilation and cannibalism. By victims being tied together before their throats are collectively slit in one big, fatal swoop.

And yet, you likely won't read about this war in the newspaper. A scant number of news articles have been published on its bloodshed over the past decade. It isn't a secret war, unknown to reporters and broadcasters. Instead, for whatever reason, it has become an ignored war.

But first, let's go over the statistics.

The numbers associated with this Heart of Darkness clash are so staggering, one wishes they could have been made up by a Hollywood screenwriter instead of being the terrifying reality of a nation spiraling out of control. In terms of dead bodies, this war has claimed an estimated 5.4 million lives as a result of fighting, famine and disease, which is significantly larger than the Darfur conflict's ghastly 19,500 to 400,000 death toll and the civil war in Sierra Leone's 50,000 death toll. To put things further into perspective, the number of people who are estimated to have died in this ignored war is 1.5 million more than the total number of people living in British Columbia.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that it is being called the second deadliest conflict to scar the surface of the earth after World War II.

Today, estimates peg the number of people dying at approximately 45,000 per month - that's 1,500 deaths a day - and half the people killed are children under the age of five. An estimated 200,000 women have been raped.

So where is this war? And why haven't you heard much about it?

The first question is easier to answer. This brutal war sets its scene in the third largest country in Africa and the 19th most populated country in the world, in a place formerly known as Zaire and currently as the Democratic Republic of the Congo or more simply the DRC.

It's a massive country, sitting defiantly in the centre of Africa, with borders stretching east to Sudan and Uganda and so far west they brush the Atlantic Ocean's coastline. Its folds of land are magnificently adorned with stretches of lush rainforests that house rare animal species like the Okapi and Mbuti pygmies underneath pristine vegetation.

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