Amid all the chaos of the start of the school year, it seems college students have still found time to lobby Congress to respond to the violence in Congo. Recently, students at Weber State University in Utah made serious headway in the campaign to press U.S. leaders to address the deadly war in Congo, convincing their senator to get onboard.
Weber State University’s STAND chapter engaged in a campaign led by advocacy group Invisible Children to support two crucial bills currently in the U.S. Senate: the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 and the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. After weeks of lobbying, the students convinced Senator Bob Bennett of Utah to take action. Senator Bennett co-sponsored the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, and the students were able to meet with the senator’s senior advisor, Mary Maughan, to further discuss the Congo Conflict Minerals Act.
The success of the students at Weber State represents the positive power of student lobbying and STAND’s activities as a whole. By effectively pressuring key individuals, over a three-week stretch, the students at WSU not only compelled the senator to take action, but also engaged with his office in a discussion that could help Senator Bennett refocus his own views on the conflict in Congo and the important role the U.S. can play in helping to end the violence and begin rehabilitating communities.
These students have shown the sheer power of persistently lobbying key decision makers. However, the accomplishments of WSU’s students are not the end of this process; their success must be seen as a small victory in a long, uphill battle. Further action and lobbying from other STAND chapters and concerned citizens is necessary to make sure that these two bills not only get passed, but that they become a high priority for members of Congress and the U.S. agencies in charge of implementing them.
As a student at Georgetown, the success of WSU’s STAND chapter only further compels me to take action. Our own STAND chapter is looking to take further action regarding the Congo this semester. Hopefully, students around the country find energy and inspiration in the success of WSU’s STAND and draw from it to motivate their own efforts.
The vicious conflict in the Congo needs swift and decisive action. These two bills are progressive steps toward that end and should be key action items for activists to rally around.