This post was co-written by Boston University student and CFCI leader Garrett Moore and Congo Action Now (CAN) leader Pat Aron.
Students, members of the Congolese diaspora, and other citizens of Massachusetts are leading the movement for peace and stability in Congo. These grassroots efforts demonstrate how those outside of DC or the halls of the United Nations can make progress in the Congo, helping bring an end to the cycle of conflict and sexual violence.
Nonprofit groups and campus organizations throughout Massachusetts recently united at Boston University for a conference with three key goals:
- Elevate the conversation on the Congo within our communities
- Reinvigorate our civic engagement on policies that can help bring an end to the conflict in Congo, and
- Commit our campuses to the conflict-free movement.
Keynote speaker Germain Indjassa spoke on the importance of public awareness and understanding. He posed the question,“Why doesn’t anyone talk about the conflict [in the Congo]? They say, ‘it’s too complex!’ But what conflict is easy?”
We must not be immobilized by the immensity of the situation in the Congo, but instead feel empowered by our ability to make a difference. Key successful grassroots initiatives include the anti-apartheid movement in the eighties and nineties and recent grassroots pressure on the Obama administration to prioritize and support the central-African mission to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony to a permanent end. These actions came to fruition in part due to the awareness raised on college campuses and in communities across the country.
Schools throughout the northeast are joining over 150 campuses worldwide that have been a part of the movement supporting an end to the conflict in Congo. They are racing to be the next campus from Raise Hope for Congo's Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI) to commit to conflict-free technology procurement policies. Conflict-free sourcing weakens the funding armed groups often use in eastern Congo to commit atrocities against the Congolese people. Students and other electronics consumers can demand conflict-free products by: participating in CFCI, contacting key technology companies to encourage them to ensure their supply chains are conflict-free, and purchasing products from companies like Intel and HP that have already taken drastic steps to clean up their supply chains.
The Massachusetts-based organization Congo Action Now, in collaboration with the Enough Project and Raise Hope for Congo’s CFCI, Mwinda Catholic Community, Congolese Genocide Awareness, and over 50 other community groups, is intensifying efforts to get H2898 An Act Relative to Congo Conflict Minerals passed by the Massachusetts legislature. Activists are again partnering with policymakers to follow the lead of the state legislatures of California and Maryland in passing a bill that holds not only technology, but all companies that deal with the state government accountable for their supply chains. Like the ground-breaking Massachusetts pension funds divestment from South Africa in 1983, this policy would weaken the economic impetus for conflict and oppression.
Peace in Congo is possible, but it will require the efforts of impassioned individuals and communities to discuss, engage, and act in support of the Congolese. This month, as we mourn the victims of the Rwandan genocide and mass atrocities in places such as Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, and Congo, we are reminded that we are the individuals to make “never again” a reality.