Re: “Hunt for the ‘blood diamond of batteries’ impedes green energy push” [Nov. 29, Nation & World]:

In the early 1970s, we Peace Corps volunteers marched off to the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire) to convert the people of the country to democracy by teaching English, mathematics and agriculture to a population living on the edge of survival as they always had under African kings and European colonizers. We did our naive best to transform a nation fragmented by tribalism into a utopia based on resource mining.

Within 10 years, the vast Congo River Basin had descended into a chaos of factions and a dispossessed population beset by pandemics and nearly total breakdown of services and government. The wealthy “bwana wakubwa” (big men) relied on private militias to wrest control from elected government. The economy crashed, and the currency became worthless. Democracy dissolved into the autocracy of profit-making, and people began to migrate from this land of great potential. International corporate entities supplanted the corrupt government agencies in a headlong quest for cobalt and other rare minerals.

Once again, the bwana wakubwa enrich themselves on the backs of the poor, who must play the game to survive, without a safety net or health care. We have failed the Congolese. We have failed ourselves.

Peter E. Messinger, Snohomish