Who Pays the Price?
This isn't just violence for violence sake, it's psychological warfare and social control.
A BBC documentary called 'The world's most dangerous place for women' highlighted the conflict over minerals, and the part it plays in the continuing raping, maiming and killing of women in the Congo.
The competing militias fight for ownership of these precious and profitable minerals. To do this they do whatever it takes to drive out or control whole communities.
The men know that they can be beaten, tortured and even killed and the women are targeted deliberately for rape.
They are raped over and over, with each new generation being brought up to witness or experience the same fate. It is possible for a Grandmother, Mother and little girl all to be raped at the same time.
The physical torture and devastation of these women is without question, this isn't just violence for violence sake, it is planned psychological warfare and social control. The raping of women destroys the communities, destroys family, destroys the women and their children's future. Many flee and end up living in displaced settings.
Many children are 'recruited' into the armies. And so the cycle continues.
Dr. Denis Mukwege of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu told Bob Herbert of The New York Times...
“The ordinary sense of family and community is lost after a man has been forced to watch his wife being raped, or parents are forced to watch the rape of their daughters, or children see their mothers raped.
Neighbours are witnesses to this. Many flee. Families are dislocated. Social relationships are lost. There is no more social network, village network. Not only the victims have been destroyed; the whole village is destroyed.”
What's fuelling this? Our desire for laptops, computers and mobile phones that vibrate. I can't get away from the fact that big businesses know what they are buying into, they allow this violence.
Perhaps our own ignorance can be excused. I didn't know till 2 days ago about where the components for my phone or laptop came from. But I never questioned it either, I never asked. Did you?
The DRC is the 6th richest country in the world when it comes to natural resources such as gold, silver and diamonds.
(produced from cassiterite) – used inside your cell phone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards.
The biggest use of tin worldwide is in electronic products. Congolese armed groups earn approximately $85 million per year from trade in tin.
(produced from “coltan”) – used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones. Sixty-five to 80 percent of the world’s tantalum is used in electronic products.
Congolese armed groups earn an estimated $8 million per year from trading in tantalum.
(produced from wolframite) – used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate.
Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $2 million annually.
- used in jewellery and as a component in electronics.
Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, Congolese armed groups are earning between $44 million to $88 million per year from gold.'
Laptops and mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives. It would be unrealistic perhaps to ask us all to throw away our technology. Neither do we want to take away the money the miners earn, a fair price and fair trade should be encouraged.
But we need to be conscious of what we are buying, the big companies like Intel, Apple, Nokia and Nintendo aren't going to listen to us unless we start shouting from the rooftops that...
"we want 'Rape free' mobile phones and computers."
This is possible; remember the terrible conflicts in West Africa over the 'Blood Diamonds'? To stop the run of these 'mafia' gangs, certification was introduced and is now overseen by the UN.
The businesses and governments refused to buy into violence any longer. Any reputable jewellery store selling diamonds will have a guaranteed certificate that they are free from conflict. So there is hope.
I would like to quote from Mr. Prendegast once more.
'Our lives are made vastly easier by the technology in our cell phones, laptops, and other electronics products. This could not happen without an array of minerals, many of which come from the Congo. The price we pay for these goods is modest. The price that Congo’s women and girls pay is unacceptable. We must tell our politicians that we cannot allow such crimes against humanity to continue.'
Every time we turn on our PC's, or buy a new mobile phone we are contributing to the continued conflict, brutality and rape of the men, women and children.
Every time our phone vibrates, a woman or little girl has been raped for it.
Yes it's horrible, how could I dare to say something that is so sickening? Because it is true and because we do have a responsibility. We need to tell our friends, our families, our neighbour in the street.
We need to protest campaign and lobby our politicians and the businesses that buy into these minerals. When there are enough of us they will listen.
We as consumers, have enormous leverage in making our companies have corporate responsibility. We can put this technology - bought at such a high cost to life - to good use and play a positive role in empowering and protecting the women of the Congo.
Then finally the people in central Africa can find peace, the heart can stop bleeding, especially the women.
So, would you like to know where you can purchase a rape free mobile phone or computer? Sorry, but there's no such thing. Yet.