Imagine growing up during the Holocaust or World War II. These types of world events only happen once, and the lesson is to never let history repeat itself. Can you imagine 6 million people being murdered in one country? Again? Can you imagine a World War? Again? Can you imagine more than 1,000 women being raped everyday as a systematic weapon of war? If you ask the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), they don’t have to imagine. They are living it.
Congo is home to the second largest rainforest in the world and its natural resources include diamonds, copper, tin, gold, oil, and the list goes on. One of the most prized natural resources proves to be coltan. It has also proven to be deadly. According to the United Nations, 60-80% of the global reserve of coltan (used to manufacture cell phones, computers, and various electronics) can be found in the eastern Congo region, Kivu. Since 1998, millions have been, and continue to be, murdered (estimates range from 5.4 to 6.9 million and counting) forced to flee, murdered, raped, or both. Minerals are seemingly more valuable than humans.
Why the war? Why the genocide? Why the systematic rape of women, including elderly and children? The answer is simple. Impunity. Greed. Corruption. Exploitation. How is it possible that developed nations, including the United States, has not taken a public, stern, persistent stand against the war waging in the Congo? Why has no “celebrity” picked up the torch to shine light and attention on one of the deadliest wars our world has ever known? More importantly, why has the voice of the Congolese people been silenced? The answer, not so simple.
I too was oblivious to the atrocities happening in the Congo. However, once you are aware of a social injustice, and you don’t act, you become part of the problem and not the solution. Is it murder on our hands if we pick up a cell phone? Absolutely. Take responsibility in knowing that we directly benefit from the genocide and rape happening in the Congo. We wear it around our neck, post on Facebook and tweet on Twitter, type our homework, or watch TV. Don’t think for one second a “conflict-free” diamond or cell phone means someone in a mineral-rich African nation didn’t die, wasn’t displaced, raped, assaulted, or worse as a result. But the difference is that you can take this fact, educate yourself, and speak out. At the very least, care.
For more information on how you can help raise awareness for the Democratic Republic of Congo, visit www.congojustice.org and www.friendsofthecongo.org.
Tiffany J Drummond