News / Africa

US Activists Bring Attention to Congo's Plight

Congo's recent history has been marked by conflict and competing armed groups, Oct 2010
Congo's recent history has been marked by conflict and competing armed groups, Oct 2010



Activists in the United States are organizing events this week to bring attention to the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The efforts are part of a wider movement to help victims and try to bring about change from a distance.

Kanda Bongo Man, a musician from the Democratic Republic of Congo, kicked off events this week in Harlem, New York, as part of what is being called "Breaking the Silence: Congo Week."

The student coordinator of a group called Friends of the Congo, Kambale Musavuli, explains the importance of dozens of events across the United States and in other countries that will range from running races to conferences.

'Breaking the Silence'

"I think it is a responsibility for humanity to care for one another, that is one basic reason," said Musavuli.  "A second is that it is the greatest conflict in the world since World War II, the deadliest conflict since World War II.  It will take the support of ordinary people around the world, especially the United States, because it has a lot of leverage in bringing about peace in the Congo and we know that ordinary people can do that since they did it 100 years ago."

Activists in the United States are spending the week organizing Congo-related protests, Oct 2010
Activists in the United States are spending the week organizing Congo-related protests, Oct 2010

Musavuli points to the historical role of Americans like author Mark Twain and former American slave Booker T. Washington as precedence.  In the early 1900s, they helped lead a mass movement to end atrocities in the Congo.  At the time, Belgium's King Leopold had made the Congo his private property and had built a fortune through rubber plantations.

In 1908, the Belgian parliament compelled the king to cede Congo to Belgium, and the worst of the atrocities ended.

Musavuli said today regular Americans can ask their local councils to write resolutions for peace in the Congo, while starting their own Internet campaigns.  That way, he said, the issue will be on everyone's mind.

'Congo Week'

The week-long activities come amid growing activism by U.S groups pointing out how the sale of cellphones and laptops, made with some of Congo's minerals, helps fuel Congo's conflict.  They also have protested against the use of child soldiers and widespread rape.  Between five and six million people are estimated to have been killed in Congo's war in the past 14 years, which also has involved neighboring countries.

In eastern Congo, the region where war persists, different armies, militia groups, rebels and companies have been competing to profit from the region's mineral wealth, while local populations try to survive in dismal conditions.

One U.S. group has been organizing a tour of campuses and coffee shops - called "Falling Whistles" - to advocate for peace.

Advocacy coordinator Monique Beadle says the whistles are a double metaphor to bring attention to child soldiers too young to hold weapons who are sent to the frontlines wearing only whistles, and to so-called whistleblowers in Congo, who refuse to remain silent.

"There are brave women and men on the ground who are risking their lives everyday and standing up for peace in their own communities so we blow this whistle in protest against the war and also in solidarity," said Beadle.

Shedding light on the conflict

Beadle calls on participants who attend Congo protests to start their own protests, and use whatever skills they have to bring attention to the conflict.  "Falling Whistles" sells replicas of the whistles child soldiers are forced to wear, and sends proceeds to rehabilitation programs in the Congo.

Beadle said she believes activism from outside eventually can help those trying to make a difference from within the Congo prevail.

"A lot of times we hear from people that it is an intractable problem and there is just no way that Congo can be at peace," said Beadle.  "It is too big.  But we simply don't believe that it is the case.  We have met too many Congolese people, some visionaries, civil society leaders, reformers, who really have the potential and the vision and ideas to make for peace on the ground, and all that they really need is our awareness and our support and solidarity."

Other suggestions that activists have been making are for the United States government to cut aid to neighboring countries found meddling in the Congo, as well as devoting more diplomatic energy to ending the conflict.  They also want to see all companies selling electronic goods in the United States certify their products are free of conflict minerals.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs