By Cristian Nunez
With over 5.4 million dead and 2 million people displaced, the conflict in the Congo is the deadliest since WWII. For over a century, the deadly struggle for the Congo’s natural resources has ravaged the greater region. War in the Eastern Congo began in the 1990s and has continued intermittently since then. The conflict has encompassed two wars, lasting from 1996-97 and 1998-2003, including invasions from surrounding countries, as well as a variety rogue armed groups, both foreign and domestic.
The conflict is responsible for some of the most serious crimes against humanity including violence against women and the use of children as soldiers. Rape is a common tactic used to scare populations into loyalty to the armed groups. Despite all of this, the conflict has not drawn any serious international media attention.
Fueling the incessant conflict in the region are “conflict minerals” and the insatiable appetite for electronics. The conflict minerals are otherwise referred to as gold and the “Three Ts:” tungsten, tantalum, and tin. Tantalum stores electricity, tungsten allows for vibration, tin is used as solder and gold is used to coat the wiring. These four elements are present in almost every available electronic consumer product including cell phones, laptops and digital cameras.
Mining operations are typically owned and taxed by armed militias who then smuggle them across the Democratic Republic of Congo’s borders into Rwanda and Uganda. Rwanda and Uganda gain profit from this illicit trade through taxation and exportation to Asia, where the minerals are refined and processed into the electronics that we then consume. A deadly competition then takes place for the mining of these minerals in the Congo.
Conflict Free Campus Initiative is an organization that endeavors to stop the cycle of violence in the Congo. The initiative aims at providing information on the conflict, encouraging action through a critical look at consumptive practices and action in the political process to put pressure on the companies buying conflict minerals.
Georgetown College’s very own student run Conflict Free Campus Initiative is holding a Nexus event “Raising Hope for the Congo,” on Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. in the Jones-Hall-Nelson Suite (formerly known as the Hall of Fame Room). George Nzabanita, a senior at Georgetown College, will speak about the conflict in his home country of the DRC and how it has affected him personally.
The Conflict Free Campus Initiative, through this Nexus event and future club activities, hopes to make Georgetown College a conflict free campus and encourage the campus community to advocate for the human rights of the people of Congo and the rest of the world and help end the conflict that has claimed millions of lives. To learn more about the crisis in the Congo and the efforts to stop it, visit raisehopeforthecongo.org.