“Hey! Hey Ho!This coltan war has got to go!” could be heard all the way down K Street from the George Washington University campus to the White House.
Last week, I and other members of the Raise Hope for Congo team joined students from the D.C. area, along with representatives from Falling Whistles and Friends of Congo, in a rally for peace in Congo hosted by the GW STAND chapter. We met on GW’s campus, and marched down K Street, through the Occupy DC camp, to rally in front of the White House and tell President Obama that Americans want to see action on policy towards Congo.
As participants collected in Kogan Plaza on GW’s campus, several speakers addressed the crowd. Paul Pumphrey, co-founder of Friends of Congo, spoke about the riches of Congo—fertile land and a wealth of minerals—and explained that these resources are being plundered, leaving the Congolese people with a crumbling infrastructure, few social services, and ongoing conflict. He called for more research to discover the ways in which multinational corporations, and not the Congolese people, continue to benefit from Congo’s natural wealth.
Mohamed Sidibay, a student at GW and a former Sierra Leonean child soldier, told the crowd, “We all have a shared dream: freedom.” He went on to say that the people of Congo are denied this dream and that we must raise our voices here in the United States to speak on their behalf.
Raise Hope for Congo’s Campaign Manager JD Stier described the expanding movement for peace in Congo that is sweeping the United States. Together, Congolese people, STAND, American NGOs, and the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative student leaders are raising awareness and encouraging the U.S. government and corporations to take a stand on this issue. Stier explained that the conflict minerals issue is an entry point to generate discussion about peace in the Congo.
“Today, we are sending a clear message: We want no more dirty minerals in our electronics!” he yelled through the megaphone, revving up the crowd. “Change won’t happen if we stay at home, if we don’t write about it in our papers, if we stay silent.”
We marched from campus down K Street toward the White House, past electronic stores including T Mobile and Radioshack, which compelled students to pass around the megaphone calling on these corporations to offer consumers conflict-free electronics.
In front of the White House students gathered with signs as Molly Dunton, GW STAND’s co-outreach coordinator, announced, “We are here today to raise awareness about Congo and corporate exploitation.” Kaiser Kabir, president of GW STAND, urged participants and bystanders to learn about the conflict in Congo and to take action through Raise Hope for Congo and Falling Whistles.
JD Stier once again addressed the crowd, calling for an end to the centuries of exploitation of Congo’s land and people. He proclaimed, “The human race will no longer tolerate domination and exploitation of the masses by the one percent. We are at the center of a movement. We are alive and aware and we will win peace in the Congo!”
Here's a Flickr slideshow with photos from the rally.