Monday, April 27, 2009
we must do more
Since 1996, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has played host to the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. More than 5.4 million people have died from the ravaging effects of war and its aftermath. Today, eastern Congo is caught in an epidemic of appalling sexual violence, as militias use rape as a military tactic to destroy communities and exert control over natural resources. The conflict has been marked by cycles of escalation, and the international response has been wholly inadequate.
Congolese women and girls in particular bear the vicious brunt of this crisis. Indeed, eastern Congo right now is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or a girl. Used as a weapon of war, sexual violence and rape exist on a scale seen nowhere else in the world. Often successful in its intent to destroy and exterminate, rape is causing the destruction of women, their families, and their communities. Congo’s women are the backbone of Congolese society and are the country’s best, brightest hope. Yet efforts to protect women and girls in the Congo are failing spectacularly. Rape ruins the women physically (let alone mentally and emotionally), pro-creates a race of “dishonored” children of rape, and demoralizes the men/husbands/fathers (who are forced to watch) in a traumatizing and terrible way.
Enough is enough.
Congo is not hopeless.
There are solutions.
Together, we can stop the violence. Where there is hope there can be peace. We must tell our leaders that we cannot allow such crimes against humanity to continue, not on our watch. For over a century, the Congo has been plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources. In fact, the greed for Congo’s wealth has been a principal driver of atrocities and conflict throughout Congo’s tortured history. In eastern Congo today, resources are financing multiple armed groups, many of whom use rape as a deliberate tactic to drive the local population away from mines and other areas that they wish to control. The armed groups that are perpetuating the violence generate an estimated $144 million each year by trading in four main minerals, the 3 Ts and gold:
* Tin – used inside your cell phone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards. 53% of tin worldwide is used as a solder, the vast majority of which goes into electronics. Armed groups earn approximately $85 million per year from trading in tin.
* Tantalum (often called “coltan”) – used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones. 65-80% of the world’s tantalum is used in electronic products. Armed groups earn an estimated $8 million per year from trading in tantalum.
* Tungsten – used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate. Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $2 million annually.
* Gold – used mainly in jewelry, gold is also a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, armed groups are earning between $44-88 million per year from gold.
The first step to building a movement is to raise awareness about the crisis in Congo. No matter how much we know or how much we care, we will only succeed if we speak out and demand action from our leaders. The campaign offers a menu of actions that activists can take to raise their voices and call for an end to the conflict and sexual violence in eastern Congo. Despite the horrific scale of the violence, and the grave consequences of the conflict in Congo, we rarely see it on television, we seldom hear about it on the radio, and we hardly ever read about it in the newspapers. The campaign works with activists to raise the profile of the Congo conflict in the media and demand that the media shine a light on this invisible yet catastrophic crisis.
To learn more about Enough and what you can do to help, go to www.enoughproject.org.