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Cablegate: Drl Officer?S Visit Highlights Gravity of Child

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKI #0977/01 3021122
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291122Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0260
RUEBWJA/USDOLABOR WASHDC
INFO RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2292
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000977

SIPDIS

PASS TO DOL/ILAB (TMCCARTER)
DEPT FOR DRL/ILCSR (TDANG)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EIND ETRD PHUM SOCI CG
SUBJECT: DRL OFFICER?S VISIT HIGHLIGHTS GRAVITY OF CHILD
LABOR PROBLEM IN THE DRC

1. (U) Summary: During an October 12-19 visit to the
DRC,
DRL Foreign Affairs Officer Tu Dang met with a wide range
of stakeholders, including government officials, NGOs,
labor unions and other civil society organizations to
discuss labor and corporate social responsibility issues.
She also toured the Gecamines mining site in Kipushi,
Katanga province. Embassy Kinshasa Economic/Commercial
FSN employee Nkandamana Kabangu accompanied Ms. Tu Dang
during her visit. Throughout her trip, both GDRC
officials and NGO activists confirmed the existence of
child labor in the DRC?s mining sector. They also
outlined several programs for combating this problem.
Post will continue to pressure the DRC government to
improve its performance on child and forced labor issues
and welcomes additional visits by DRL as an opportunity
to advocate and educate the GDRC on these
issues. End summary.

Background Information on visit to Kinshasa and
Lubumbashi
------------------------------------------

2. (U) In September 2008, DRL Assistant Secretary David
Kramer and DAS Jeff Krilla visited Kinshasa and met with
the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(GDRC) to discuss our shared interest in promoting worker
rights and combating forced labor and the worst forms of
child labor. As a follow up to the DRL AS? visit, on
October 12-19, DRL Foreign Affairs Officer Tu Dang met
with a wide range of stakeholders, including the
government, NGOs, labor unions and other civil society
organizations to discuss labor and corporate social
responsibility issues. Meetings took place in Kinshasa,
Lubumbashi, and Kipushi, with a particular focus on labor
practices in the extractive industry in the Katanga
province.

Child labor: a reality in DRC mines
------------------------------------

3. (U) During an October 13 meeting, the GDRC?s Ministry
of Labor Chief of Staff Henriette Minchiabu confirmed the
existence of the worst forms of child labor in the DRC?s
mining sector. Minchiabu reported that children work in
mines and stone quarries where they are involved in
breaking stones and often transport heavy loads for the
traders. She also said that children work as water
sellers, domestic servants, and entertainers in bars and
restaurants. She added that children continue to be
recruited and used by armed groups for a variety of
purposes. At the same time, Minchiabu denied the
existence of ?forced labor? in the DRC. (Note: ?Forced
labor? is defined in accordance with ILO Convention 29 as
all work or service which is exacted from any person
under the menace or penalty for its nonperformance and
for which the worker does not offer himself or herself
voluntarily, and includes indentured labor. End note.)

4. (SBU) Minchiabu continued that children are engaged
in
child labor because they don?t have access to schooling.
Additionally, children work to support their families,
and
this is particularly prevalent for those children who are
the heads of their households, either because they have
no
parents or their parents are unemployed. She concluded
that children want to stay in child labor because they
enjoy earning money.
(Comment: Post does not share Minchiabu?s opinion that
?forced labor? does not exist in the DRC. End comment.)

5. (U) The GDRC has addressed child labor through the
labor code, children?s law, penal code, civil code and
other laws. However, the Ministry of Labor has yet to
Qother laws. However, the Ministry of Labor has yet to
develop a national action plan to comprehensively address
child labor. Minchiabu opined that preventive efforts
should be the focus, particularly on raising awareness on
exploitative child labor through the media. With regards
to local capacity to address the issue of child labor,
she pointed out that there are local NGOs who focus on
the issue, but she was not aware of how many or exactly
which ones. The priorities of the Ministry of Labor
include addressing the high rate of unemployment and lack
of funding for labor issues.

6. (U) A number of observers on the ground have backed
Minchiabu?s statement that child labor is prevalent in
the
DRC. For example, Jean Mayombe, Vice President of the
leading DRC union ?Confederation Syndicale du Congo,?
(CSC)
and his colleagues also confirmed the existence of child
labor in the DRC?s mining sector due to a lack of social
protections, inadequate enforcement of labor laws and the
lack of training for women. Mayombe estimated that 95
percent of the DRC workforce is in the informal sector.


7. (U) Solidarity Center Program Director Michael
Schwaabe
told Dang on October 13 that an increasing number of
children are working in Kolwezi mines in the southern
Katanga province. Catholic Relief Services in Katanga
(CRS) explained that the local population?s interest in
working in the mining sector is based on the lack of
alternative sources of income. Increasingly, children
and adults are drawn to work in the mines due to the
easy-money mentality. Mining companies often pay higher
salaries than other sectors and for many mining is the
best-paid job.

8. (U) The UNICEF Chief in Katanga, Roger Botralahy,
observed that labor practices are different for different
minerals and ores. He reported that forced labor exists
in
the northern Katanga province where the soldiers force
children and adults to mine for them or to transport
heavy
packages. He also said that child labor exists within
the
Congolese military (FARDC) especially in Kamina, Pueto,
and
Kalemie (all in Katanga province) where 91 children
soldiers live. (Note: UNICEF is not supporting these
children directly, but monitors their situation. End
note.)

9. (U) Botralahy noted that this issue is so sensitive
that UNICEF is required to present an official letter
prior to visiting these children. He reported that
indigenous
cultural practices, like witchcraft, play an integral
part
in the prevalence of street children. For example, there
is a practice of branding children with handicaps or even
minor abnormalities (e.g. speech defects, learning
disabilities, etc.) as ?witches,? which results in
parents abandoning their child and leaving them for a
life in the streets. He furthermore noted that 8-10 year
old girls, called the ?canetons? (ducklings in French)
are forced into
prostitution by the ?madams? in the mining areas of
Katanga
in order make money.

10. (U) Marcel Munene, who is the Director of the DRC
parastatal copper and cobalt mining firm Gecamines in
Kipushi, also confirmed the existence of child labor in
the
artisanal mines. He deplored the fact that children are
working in the mines and opined that children and adults
are ignorant of proper mining techniques and mining
safety
standards, which places them at increased risk of injury
or
death. Munene noted that the deepest mine in DRC is
located at Kipushi, which has a depth of 1,490 meters.
According to Munene, the GDRC should adopt a long-term
solution by installing new infrastructure, acquiring new
equipment, converting some of its mining activities into
agriculture, and providing training to young people. He
estimated that the restoration of Gecamines?
infrastructure in Kipushi would require at least USD 60
million in funding, but a feasibility study would first
need to be conducted. While he noted that child labor is
a problem in the mining sector, he stated that it is out
of the scope of his mandate to follow-up on such issues.
Qof the scope of his mandate to follow-up on such issues.


11. (U) During a visit to a stone quarry in Kipushi on
the
Gecamines? compound, DRL Officer witnessed children,
women
and men working. Children were mostly engaged in
breaking
stones and carrying loads. Women were involved in
digging
and breaking stones, while some mothers were carrying
their
babies in their arms while breaking stones. When asked
why
they work, the children replied that they wanted to
financially support their parents and besides, they
didn?t
have money for schooling. However, most of the children
interviewed indicated that they would rather go to school
than be in the mines.

Actions taken to combat child labor
-----------------------------------

12. (U) Both the GDRC and other private organizations
have
implemented a number of programs to combat child labor in
the DRC. For instance, Minchiabu claimed that 30,000
child
soldiers have been demobilized as a result of a
vocational
training program supported by the Ministry of Labor and
implemented by the Solidarity Center and Save the
Children.
Solidarity Center Program Director Michael Schwaabe
reported that his NGO combats the worst forms of child
labor in collaboration with the NGOs and trade unions.
One project which Solidarity Center in conjunction with
Save the Children is implementing is the USDOL-funded
?Reducing the Exploitation of Working Children Through
Education? (REETE) Program. The REETE Project targets
8,000 children for withdrawal and 4,000 children for
prevention from mining, mining-related services, small-
scale commerce, agro-pastoral activities and the worst
forms of child labor in the Katanga Province, the Kasai
Orientale Province, and the Ituri District.

13. (U) Francois Philippart, PACT Manager in Katanga,
and
Yves Bawa, Regional PACT Manager in Ituri, Oriental
Province, stated that their NGO has been promoting social
reintegration of the street children back into their
communities while dealing with female illiteracy and
conflict resolution in the extractive industries. They
shared that children work largely because of economic
reasons, or lack of schooling or other opportunities.
PACT noted that child labor is a problem and said that
they
would be interested in coordinating with the ILO and
other
NGOs to improve workers? rights. They reported that
diggers generally know the market price for their mined
products but they have no choice but to accept the low
price paid by the broker. They suggested that promoting
small business development in the Katanga region would
create jobs, decrease local dependence on imports, and
diversify skill sets. Since 2003, PACT has focused on
community empowerment, livelihoods promotion and natural
resource management.

14. (U) UNICEF is currently working with NGOs to take
children out of the mines. UNICEF has initiated income-
generating activities for children?s parents through NGOs
as an incentive for them to keep their children out of
child labor and in school. Jeff Imans of the
International Rescue Committee (IRC) mentioned that the
labor practices of smaller mining companies are
problematic. Other concerns include the problem of
smuggling minerals to other
countries, and the continual use of child soldiers. He
announced that IRC will start a child protection program
soon in Kolwezi, as well as a gender-based violence
project
in Katanga. For the moment, IRC is engaged in community
reconstruction based on education, health, and the
environment. IRC is implementing a health project funded
by the World Bank.

15. (U) Finally, Yero De and Dolet Nyembo of the
Q15. (U) Finally, Yero De and Dolet Nyembo of the
International Labor Organization (ILO) noted ILO?s
involvement in addressing labor practices in both
industrial and artisanal mining in Katanga province. The

ILO is currently working with a Belgian NGO called ?Group
One? to withdraw children from the mines and eradicate
child labor. The ILO proposes a three-pronged approach:
1) organize diggers into cooperatives in order to improve
their working conditions; 2) improve working conditions
in mining companies; and 3) promote social dialogue
between workers, companies, and the government. ILO reps
noted that the GDRC, public and private unions,
enterprises, and the ILO have started a tripartite
dialogue framework on child labor. He suggested that
creating employment opportunities, strengthening the
skills of women, enrolling children back in school, and
decreasing DRC reliance on imports should be on the top
of the agenda for the GDRC.

Comment
-------

16. (U) DRL Officer Tu Dang?s visit underscored the fact
that child labor remains a serious problem in DRC?s
mining
sector. Her trip offered a forum to emphasize that U.S.
laws prohibit the import of products made with forced
labor,
including by children. Moreover, it provided an
opportunity
to see first-hand the working conditions of some miners.
Post will continue to monitor developments related to
child
and forced labor in the DRC and to advocate for their
eradication. End comment.

17. (U) This cable was/was cleared by Ms. Tu Dang.

GARVELINK

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