We all love our cell phones and electronic devices and the selection of different models has never been greater. They connect us to our friends and family but they also connect us with the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the most dangerous places on earth. The production of our electronics products has a dark, bloody side the world has yet to learn about. Inside our electronics devices are illegally mined minerals which, according to the United Nations, are fueling the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. Many of the minerals used in the manufacture of our everyday electronics, the 3Ts – tin, tungsten, and tantalum – and gold, come from mines in eastern Congo which are controlled and taxed by armed militia groups responsible for committing horrible atrocities such as mass murder, torture, kidnappings, rape, mutilation, child abductions, forced labor, and other severe human rights abuses.
There is a silent war in eastern Congo that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousand of innocent children every year since 1996. It is a war where children too small to carry a gun are sent to the frontlines of war with nothing but a whistle, to serve only as a barricade and to block the first volley of bullets with their bodies. It is a war in which 1,100 women are raped every single day, a war that sees approximately 45,000 civilians die every month, and a war whose trail of blood leads directly to us. According to the International Rescue Committee, nearly 6 million innocent civilians have died as a result of this war and war-related causes, but the real tragedy we don’t realize is the fact that this war is funded by us.
The Sentinel Project has been closely following recent events in the Democratic Republic of Congo from the connection between our consumer electronics products and the raging conflict in eastern Congo to the final countdown to Congo’s elections this November, the role of the international community in this crisis, and the role of Congolese youth in the future of their country. The crisis in the Congo is very complex so the need for various approaches to confront the crisis by finding common ground and working together towards solutions through collaboration in diplomatic engagement to support credible elections; protecting civilians and dismantling rebel groups; combating conflict minerals; reforming the mining and security sector; and ending impunity.
There are many organizations doing very brave and important work on the DRC. Already we’ve seen some impressive results from organizations such as RAISE Hope for Congo, a campaign of the Enough Project, which aims to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the human rights of all Congolese citizens and work towards ending the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo. Many well-established and well-respected groups such as Falling Whistles, Friends of the Congo, Panzi Foundation, and individuals are actively engaged in so many different ways. There are human rights and humanitarian workers on the ground and there is now a global outcry and concern, as well as a growing movement to push both the electronics industry and policymakers towards the establishment of a credible international certification system for Congo’s conflict minerals. Just in time for the holidays, Greenpeace has teamed up with the Enough Project for conflict minerals standards. We wish to amplify these efforts by sharing their stories and supporting their commendable work to raise hope and help bring peace and justice to the people of the DRC. We also encourage our university chapters to join the Conflict Free Campus Initiative. Below is our statement of support:
The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention is aware and concerned about the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and recognizes the role of conflict minerals – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – as one of the primary drivers for this ongoing conflict. As an organization focused on using technology and electronic products that likely contain these conflict minerals, we realize our own responsibility and direct link to the situation. We therefore call on all electronics companies with whom we do business with to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of these minerals and to ensure that they are ethically sourced. We will consider future policies that this organization can adopt to help combat the problem.