Congo Week in Harlem brings awareness of conflict minerals
DEMETRIA IRWIN Special to the AmNews | 10/14/2011, 4:08 p.m.
You have heard of conflict diamonds, but what about conflict minerals? According to Friends of the Congo, millions of people have lost their lives in a brutal conflict that is at least partly fueled by the control and sale of minerals used to manufacture the electronic devices we use every day.
Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo, said, "Since 1996, the Congo has been ravaged by a war of aggression by its neighbors Rwanda and Uganda that has taken the lives of an estimated 6 million people-half of whom are children under the age of 5. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped as a strategy of war."
From a natural resources standpoint, the Congo is extraordinarily rich.
Diamonds, copper and uranium are to be found there, but it is the gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten that are commonly used to manufacture electronics such as laptops, smartphones and e-readers that are causing the conflict. Armed militia groups make millions of dollars from these minerals by illegally seizing and taxing the mines where the minerals are found and smuggling the minerals out of the country.
Rape and murder are the preferred methods of intimidation, according to organizations like Raise Hope for Congo. The minerals are refined in factories in other countries, usually China and India, and are mixed with minerals from other sources. Eventually, they are turned into components that are sent all over the world (including the United States) and used in the devices we use every day.
Oct. 16-23, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will come to Harlem. The nonprofit organization Friends of the Congo is hosting the third annual Congo in Harlem event in an effort to educate the public about the ongoing crisis in the war-torn country.
Participants in Congo Week will be privy to panel discussions, film screenings and musical performances that will shed light on the past and present of the country as well as possible solutions for the future.
The Friends of the Congo are also taking their message well beyond Harlem. Events will take place in Asian, European and African countries and other destinations around the world, starting a global conversation.
International human and civil rights issues may seem far down the priority list in a country like the United States that is mired in domestic issues, but Musavuli believes interest and action in the Congo is relevant for Americans. "What is happening in the Congo is directly tied to our use of technology such as iPads, cell phones and everyday devices. With an increased demand here in the U.S., children in the Congo find themselves running for their lives due to rogue militias displacing them from areas rich in minerals," said Musavuli.
"As human beings, we have the responsibility to raise our voice when injustice is taking place anywhere. Dr. King said it best: 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"
To purchase tickets and to learn more about Congo Week, visit www.congoinharlem.org. For more information about the conflict in the Congo, go to congojustice.org/ to watch a short documentary-viewer discretion is advised.