A Call for Congo

By Sherry Harbert

Among all the human rights violations that occur around the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may hold some of the worst. The atrocities are so overwhelming that words alone cannot describe the depth of what is happening. The images can be so graphic that they are largely ignored by the media and public. Such atrocities cannot continue, so members of the Congolese Community of Oregon and the Portland Chapter of Amnesty International have combined forces to launch a public outreach campaign.

Founders of the Voices for Congo organization spoke before a packed audience on March 13, to offer their concerns, their hopes and their voices to ending the horrors in the DRC. They each conveyed a stark reality that many Americans find surprising. The demand for cell phones, laptop computers, gaming devices and other hi-tech gadgets is what is fueling the continuation of the atrocities in the DRC.

Congo speakers

From left: Vincent Chirimwami, Maguy Masikini and Jeremie Ruvunangiza

Vincent Chirimwami, Maguy Masikini and Jeremie Ruvunangiza told of the devastating consequences of minerals trade in their country. Chirimwami asked the audience whether after six million dead, “does it truly count?”

The DRC counts for 80 percent of the coltan in the world. The mineral is key to the electrical capacitors of hi-tech components. With such vast resources, neighboring countries and the world market demands are fueled by the political unrest in the country. The mining of the mineral is usually performed in dangerous conditions. But it is the money and power that drives smugglers, militias and other groups to even more grave acts. The horrific rapes of women in the country are some of the most brutal in the world. Those who survive suffer lifelong physical and mental effects.

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