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Robin Wright on CNN: Your Cell Phone, Congo’s Misery

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Robin Wright on CNN: Your Cell Phone, Congo’s Misery

Posted by Enough Team on November 28, 2011

Robin Wright on CNN: Your Cell Phone, Congo's Misery

Editor's Note: Actress and activist Robin Wright recently traveled to eastern Congo with the Enough Project. Her op-ed reflecting on the trip and what advocates can do to promote peace originally appeared on, along with her video trip diaries.

A 10-year-old boy, his face still innocent, abducted from his village and forced to kill alongside ruthless militia fighters. A 60-year-old grandmother too ashamed of the injuries caused by a brutal rape to leave her house for five months, even though her wounds worsened. A girl who reminded me of my own daughter, bridging the years between youth and womanhood, who had been dragged into a forest near her house by a group of men and raped, over and over again.

Images of these people, whose quiet but warm personalities barely hint at the atrocities they have survived, give a human face to the conflict in eastern Congo that has long moved me as an activist. With well over 5 million people dead through war and its accompanying hardships spanning more than a decade, it is difficult to imagine the daily impact of a conflict of this magnitude, much less to feel empowered to do anything about it.

A new documentary film, "Blood in the Mobile," powerfully addresses both the limits of the imagination and our sense of connection to atrocities committed on the other side of the world. Through a shaky camera in the damp and dark mines of eastern Congo, filmmaker Frank Poulsen introduces us to some of the young men (and even children) toiling at the first stage of Congo's lucrative business in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. But the wealth of this industry doesn't really benefit the Congolese miners for their back-breaking, perilous and poorly paid work — not by a long shot.

Militia groups and factions of the Congo's army control many mines, imposing heavy "taxes" on miners for whom there are few alternatives for making a living. Juxtapose these gritty images of Congo with shots filmed at the headquarters of Nokia, the electronics powerhouse that sells these minerals in its consumer products, and you have a message that is difficult to ignore: the cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and other products we have come to rely on link all of us to the conflict in Congo.

As consumers, we're perpetuating the conflict. We have an obligation but also an opportunity.

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Photo: Actress Robin Wright conducts an interview with the translation assistance of Fidel Bafilemba and accompanied by Raise Hope for Congo's Alex Hellmuth in eastern Congo (Enough/JD Stier)