If someone told you that our technologies are fueling a war, you would probably laugh it off, look at your Blackberry and go on with your highly dependent technological life. The deep dark reality of this is that we as consumers are responsible for the suffering of innocent people in the Congo.
That’s Africa right? Miles and miles away, yet somehow we are controlling a rebel nation over natural minerals that are used to create our phones, cameras, computers and televisions. These minerals have now become conflict minerals, but that is naming it nicely.
Leading companies are paying rebel groups in the Congo to get their hands on these needed minerals. These rebel groups have corrupted the government and are controlling citizens through scare tactics of murder, rape, brutal weapon usage, and drug and gang cartels. So back to the question, how is this our fault?
Companies like Mac, Dell, and Playstation for instance, all keep what goes into their products extremely hush hush, but what is not so silent are the cries of innocent children losing their lives, and the beatings of mothers and fathers in a world so far from ours, over minerals like Tantalum, Tin and Tungsten. We all saw Blood Diamond with the stunning Leonardo DiCaprio, but why weren’t people moved then to do anything to protect these people?
According to the Enough Project, ran by John Prendergast and actor George Clooney, about 5.4 million people have died since the start of this war in 1998. This is known to be the deadliest conflict since World War II. About 47 percent of deaths are young children. Because of these unlivable and cruel conditions, about 1.5 million citizens have been displaced and categorized as refugees. Approximately 45,000 Congolese citizens will continue to die each month.
In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the Conflict Minerals Trade Act. The first attributed guideline within the act called for an end to all commercial activity and involvement with the Congo and it’s natural resources. Sadly, this has not happened.
Congo is a nation full of desperation, extreme poverty, and corruption, and yet we are only making it worse. I get that we cannot live a second without our phones, but can’t we do something to force these companies to use conflict-free minerals? Nintendo now uses conflict-free minerals due to public demand and outcry, so we know it can be done if we can act together.
Writing to these companies will save lives. We need to engage our citizens to be advocates for justice and humanity. Don’t let your children have to ask you why you didn’t try to stop this genocide. We as consumers have the power to put an end to this massacre. Stop enabling these brands by purchasing their products. Lobby and write to our government officials to get more involvement and demand conflict-free products.
In a recent trip to the Congo, U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed university students to take action. “You are the ones who have to speak out,” she told university students in Kinshasa. “Speak out to end the corruption, the violence, the conflict that for too long have eroded the opportunities across this country. Together, you can write a new chapter in Congolese history.”
The United Nations has called the Congo “a neglected catastrophe, a silent but deadly disaster.”
I ask that we be the voice of the voiceless and stop the genocide of our time. Bring peace to the Congo now. I merely ask for awareness and advocacy. To create movement for change and justice. No miracle can be performed over night, but we can save lives.
Why would you want to use a product that killed a family? Act now before it’s too late.
PHOTO COURTESY of thenational.ae