“Isn’t it dangerous there?” “Have you ever seen anyone get killed?” “Are you sure you want to go back?” “How do you survive?”
These are just some examples of the countless questions we receive when we tell someone that the Democratic Republic of Congo is a place we call home. Sometimes, it comes from ignorance; sometimes, it comes as a joke. Yet no one understands how hurtful it is to know that more than half of the world believes we live in a war zone. Especially considering the fact that we don’t.
There is no denying the mass violence that is indeed taking place in DRC and we are in no way trying to say that it should be condoned. We thoroughly understand the brutality more than anyone else because it hits so close to home. We know people who have been affected by the situation; moreover, we even know people who were around when the civil war occurred during the ’90s.
The only thing we ask is that everyone get his or her facts straight. The genocide that is taking place is focused in one region: eastern Congo. To an outsider, it might not seem like a big deal, but this key point matters more than you can imagine.
Today, USC STAND and the Political Student Assembly will be coming together to present “Come Out for Congo — The Rally.” Currently, there are already more than 100 students who have RSVP’d to the event on Facebook and more than 1000 students have been invited to join. The event plans to discuss how increasing the accountability of raw materials bought from the country (mostly to be used in technology) can “make a huge impact in reducing violence against Congolese citizens caught in the middle of the struggle.”
Now let us explain why this is not helping the cause. According to the BBC, three of the main exports of DRC are diamonds, copper and cobalt. The increase in the restrictions on buying raw materials from the country and the increased accountability requirements — which lead to an increase in cost or corruption — are not reducing the violence in eastern Congo. What it is doing, however, is greatly reducing foreign direct investment and employment while making it extremely difficult for those in the mining industry to continue to find foreign buyers.
Though trying to increase accountability of the raw materials is a justified idea, most don’t realize the negative repercussions. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has declared DRC as a conflict zone and many countries refuse to purchase material from there. Increasing accountability costs have caused companies in north, south, west and central Congo to reduce production, let go of some of their workforce and not be able to contribute as much to society.
Also, it is not well-known that the genocide in districts such as Goma, which is in eastern Congo, are mainly caused by rebels from the bordering country of Rwanda. This is due to land dispute issues as well as tribal rivalries between the two countries. It is surprising to us that the event is not informing students on this important matter. There are several factors that have led up to the violence. We feel, however, that the workshops the event has to offer do not cover most factors apart from technology.
One of the reasons we decided to come to USC was because we loved that it had such a high population of international students. We thought it would provide us with a community that was more understanding. Seeing this event broke our hearts. Knowing that now even more people would not get the right message, that more people would believe that the entire country was in turmoil, is absolutely devastating.
DRC is our home. We are proud of the advancements it has made and the development we have seen. We want to stand together with others in fighting the genocide in eastern Congo, but we need everyone to understand increasing accountability and adding restrictions to trade is not going to solve the issue, it will only lead to a strain in the rest of the country.
Freshman, business administration