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The Lemkin Summit and Coflict Minerals

This past weekend I went to Washington D.C. to attend Lemkin Summit, a national gathering of the next generation of human rights defenders. This summit was sponsored by The Enough Project (http://www.enoughproject.org), Jewish World Watch (http://www.jewishworldwatch.org), STAND (http://www.standnow.org), and Youth to End Sexual Violence (http://www.youthtoendsexualviolence.org).

My initial reason for going to this conference was to figure out how I can help the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is where both of my parents spent most of their lives. Although I have never been to the Congo, I have always felt inclined to go there one day and help the people there. I would really like to work with the United Methodist Church as a missionary in Congo or be an intern through the organization Mamafrica. Because I am studying journalism in school, I would also like to go to the Congo and write about my experiences and also create documentaries. One of my dreams is also to open a school for girls in Congo because the women are the heart and soul of the country.

At the Lemkin Summit I learned that the war in Congo has been the deadliest war since WWII with over 6 million dead and 2 million displaced. The first war in Congo was from 1996-1998 and the “second war” was from 1998-2003. During the first war, Mobutu Sese Seko was president and stole an average of $5 billion. The legacy of corruption and violence continued with the next two presidents, Laurent Kabila and his son Joseph Kabila who is the current president. The Kabila regime was stolen over $15 billion from the Congolese people. Although Congo is a country stricken with poverty, DRC is home to the second largest world rainforest, 54% of Africa’s fresh waters, 180 million hectares of arable lands that have the potential to feed 2 billion individual or half of the world’s population, and more than $20 trillion in minerals, including strategic minerals. DRC’s mineral potential encompasses USA and European GDP combined.

One of the biggest problems in the DRC is the exploitation of minerals. The four main minerals that are exploited are tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. People of all ages, even children are forced to work in mines in Eastern Congo for little to no pay. Many of the electronics we use in our everyday lives such as laptops, cell phones etc. are made with conflict minerals. Every year, armed groups in the Congo earn hundreds of millions of dollars from the exploitation of conflict minerals. The conflict mineral war has led to the raping and murdering of civilians along with government troops and armed groups using forced labor, sexual slavery, child slavery, and debt bondage to make money.

During the summit I listened to Nita Evele, the Director at Congo Global Action, Inc, speak about the violence against women in Congo, where rape is used as a weapon of war. The war has made over 500,00 female victims of sexual violence. In Congo sexual violence has progressed from women being raped to even babies being raped. There are even boys and men that are pushed to rape their wives, mothers, and sisters.

You can make a difference in ending the violence in Congo. Although it is hard to trace the origin of many minerals because they are smuggled out of Congo and transported all around the world, many companies have made efforts to become conflict mineral free. Intel, Motorola Solutions and HP have been leaders in paving the way to progress. Here is a list of the 2012 rankings for companies and their use of conflict free minerals: http://www.enoughproject.org/files/CorporateRankings2012.pdf. If one of your favorite companies uses conflict minerals, get in contact with them about switching to conflict minerals. Talk to your workplace or school about whether or not conflict free minerals are used for appliances. Before buying products from a company, find out whether or not they use conflict-free minerals. By only buying from companies who do this, we can create a consumer demand for conflict-free minerals from Congo.


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