Canada's thriving mine industry involves a myriad of business dealings throughout the globe. One mining company in particular - Nevsun - has uncovered an immense profitability center in Eritrea, a country located in East Africa, where their mineral mine produces a cash windfall exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars on an annual basis. Their collaboration with that country's brutal dictatorship may be profitable, but critics claim that it also promotes the rise of terrorism in the region. Dealing with a Dictator tackles this criticism head-on, and explores the moral and ethical implications of such partnerships.
Commonly known as the most oppressive country in Africa, Eritrea is also rich with layers of valuable minerals. That latter fact proved irresistibly alluring to a company like Nevsun, who set out to build a fully functional mining business there. The implementation of their ambitious plan came with a catch; they had to share 40% of the stake in the business with the State of Eritrea, which was headed by the barbaric dictator Isaias Afewerki.
Controversy began to erupt in the earliest days of the mining operation. According to former miners interviewed for the film, the working conditions often proved intolerable as they were subjected to forced labor, savage beatings and other forms of denigration.
In an effort to present an even-handed treatment of their volatile subject, the filmmakers also present an interview with a high-level representative of Nevsun, who denies knowledge of any such abuses or other human rights violations as it relates to the operation of their mine. The company stands by its commitment to its employees in the form of a generous benefit packages and comfortable working conditions.
But these protests have only intensified in recent years, and they carry even more grave and nefarious implications. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch organizations have claimed that Eritrea's sizable 40% share of the mine's profits have been partially used to fund the strengthening of the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Is Nevsun willfully compliant in their contributions to these atrocities, or does their distance from the region make them conveniently uninformed? Dealing with a Dictator presents a disturbing example of how neither side comes out clean when a business dares to dance with the devil.