Our lives in the digital age have revolved around electronics for quite awhile. But our dependence on our laptops, mp3 players, and cell phones may be fueling the deadliest conflict globally since World War II: the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the ENOUGH Project’s John Prendergast states, “there are few other conflicts in the world where the link between our consumer appetites and mass human suffering is so direct.” ENOUGH’s new strategy paper, “Can You Hear Congo Now? Cell Phones, Conflict Minerals, and the Worst Sexual Violence in the World,” details this connection and lays out a comprehensive strategy that involves using our power as consumers to help stop the violence. Check out our overview of the paper and learn how you can take action:
Rape as a tool of war – and profit
In the Congo, sexual violence has become a tool of war and control by armed militias on an unprecedented scale. The Congo war has the highest rate of violence against women and girls in the world, and reports indicate that hundreds of thousands have been raped. Competing militias use widespread rape in order to drive communities out or subjugate those living in the areas they control, rendering rape as an instrument of communal terror, control, and intimidation. Sexual violence allows the armed groups of Congo to exercise control over a mine or the transport and taxation of the minerals.
The illicit control over the mineral trade is how the militias of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda finance themselves. These armed groups fight over control of the rich ores that produce tin, tungsten, and tantalum (the “3 Ts”) as well as gold. The “conflict” minerals then follow a long trail from these mines into the hands of internal and international businesses, who bring them to East Asia, where they are processed into valuable metals to be incorporated into electronic products. Ultimately, consumers purchase these electronics in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Prendergast claims, “the deadly nexus between the worst violence against women in the world and the purchase of electronic products containing conflict minerals from the Congo is direct and undeniable.”
Building a Campaign
Our key to ending the violence in the Congo is by stopping the acquisition of these conflict minerals. The orchestrators of this violence rely financially on the international demand for these minerals and without them, they no longer have the resources to continue committing their atrocities.
We, as American consumers, have enormous leverage over the companies from which we purchase our electronics and, therefore, can concretely act to end the violence in Congo. The paper also discusses specific steps that our elected officials can take to help end the violence in Congo.
As we wrote last month STAND and the Genocide Intervention Network are partnering with ENOUGH on their Raise Hope for Congo campaign.
STAND chapters all over the country are already signing up to take the Congo Challenge. Last week, ENOUGH launched “RAISE Your Voice,” the advocacy phase of the Congo Challenge, at an event hosted by STAND chapter at CU Boulder. Reflecting on the event, chapter leader Chelsie Hopperstad writes:
People were moved by what they learned and this was so great for our chapter because we feel a new momentum as the year comes to an end. [Speaker] Jimmie Briggs explained, “People get tired, but movements don’t get tired.” We now have hope to create an environment for new members to be excited about what is in store for the closing semester and desire to create an innovative meeting space for the upcoming year! Students that had never heard about the conflict in the Congo not only want to be involved with Stand but have also expressed that they see a need for a life long commitment to help those effected by the atrocities. The CU Boulder Stand chapter plans to host more events to raise awareness about the Congo so that others will recognize such a need in their hearts.
Want to know how you can take action?
1. Sign up to take the Congo challenge at www.raisehopeforcongo.org
2. Text “CONGOPLEDGE” (one word, no spaces) to ACTION (228466) or visit www.raisehopeforcongo.
org/special-page/conflict-minerals to endorse the Conflict Minerals Pledge.
3. Send emails to the industry leaders and ask them to be a leader on this issue by signing
the pledge. Visit www.raisehopeforcongo.org/special-page/conflict-minerals to send
your emails now.
4. Call the White House switchboard at 202.456.1414 or write to President Obama at
www.whitehouse.gov and ask him to appoint a special envoy for the Great Lakes region.