Fighting spiked last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the scene of the world’s bloodiest conflict since World War II, with 5.4 million killed in the last decade.
Approximately 45,000 Congolese die every month from the conflict and humanitarian crisis, with devastation on the same scale as Darfur happening in the Congo every 5 1/2 months.
Exposing the role of Western corporations in fueling the fire was the focus of Congo Week, an event that took place on campuses across the world.
Kambale Musavuli, a Congolese activist and student at North Carolina A&T University, helped organize Congo Week to raise awareness for the cause.
The official story of the conflict, writes Jonathan Hari in the Independent, is that after the Rwandan genocide, the Hutu perpetrators fled into the neighboring Congo. The Rwandan government then invaded the Congo to chase after them, and other nations followed suit, causing a humanitarian crisis that persists to this day.
According to a UN panel, though, “it’s a lie,” Hari said. “The Rwandan government didn’t go to where the Hutu genocidaires were, at least not at first. They went to where Congo’s natural resources were — and began to pillage them ... Congo is the richest country in the world for gold, diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, and more. Everybody wanted a slice — so six other countries invaded.”
The minerals found in the Congo are in high demand — especially coltan, of which Congo has 80 percent of the world supply. Coltan is found in all of our cell phones, laptops and video game consoles.
The more coltan the West bought, the more the invading forces stole, Hari said, adding that the “rise of mobile phones caused a surge in deaths, because the coltan they contain is found primarily in Congo.”
The U.N. released a report in 2002 on the illegal exploitation of resources in the Congo, which accused several U.S., Canadian, European and Asian companies (more than 100 total), said Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo and Hari.
The 2003 Lusaka peace deal brokered by the U.N. reduced violence until this latest surge in fighting.
Last October, Congolese activist Christine Schuler Deschryver described the horrific violence committed against women during the conflict.
“We are talking about sexual terrorism,” she told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodwin. “They are not just rape like usual rape [sic], but they put hot plastics inside the organs. They put woods, they put bamboos, they put everything ... guns. They shoot inside the women, so they’re completely destroyed.”
The rapes are a part of a war against women and their central role in African society, Musavuli told a questioner in the Washington Post. But the source of the rapes is the conflict, and the cause of the conflict is the scramble for Congo’s vast amount of natural resources, he explained.
“So, to end the rape, you must end the conflict. And to end the conflict, you must stop the resource exploitation of the Congo,” Musavuli said.
Reach columnist Aditya Ganapathiraju at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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