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

Multimedia

Audio

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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs