Over 5.4 million dead. Over 2 million displaced. Congo is home to the deadliest conflict since World War II.
The war in eastern Congo began in the early 1990s and continues to this day. It has encompassed two international wars—from 1996 to 1997 and 1998 to 2003—and multiple invasions from neighboring countries, with combatants from many armed groups, both foreign and domestic. While Congo has abundant natural resources, it is also the world’s poorest country per capita, according to the United Nations. Congo is also home to the largest and most expensive U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world, MONUSCO, which has more than 20,000 personnel and an annual budget of $1.4 billion. The eastern part of the country is plagued by instability, as militias continue to wreak havoc on the population. Meanwhile, the conflict gets very little coverage by the international media.
The conflict in Congo is notorious for serious violations of human rights, including violence against women and the use of child soldiers. Since 1996 the International Rescue Committee has calculated that approximately 5.4 million people have died from war-related causes. In 2012 Congo ranked lowest on the United Nations Human Development Index.
The Madison City Council in Wisconsin passed a resolution earlier this week symbolically declaring the city conflict free. The resolution comes after nearly two years of a growing student movement at University of Wisconsin-Madison that campaigned the city and University to denounce the use of minerals that fuel violence and change their electronics purchasing practices to favor verifiable conflict-free products.
Last month, student activists in Madison, WI seized energy from a rally for a conflict-free Congo with Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and celebrity activist Emmanuelle Chriqui. Their hard work was realized on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 when City Council leaders unanimously approved a city resolution (RES-13-00898).
Over the past several years, student activists throughout the U.S. have been working with theConflict-Free Campus Initiative, a student-led initiative that is active on 150 campuses across the country and abroad, to pass resolutions through campus administrations. Resolutions have been passed on 16 campuses, including Duke and Stanford, and in state-wide legislation in California and Maryland. Madison joins other cities such as Pittsburgh, PA, St. Petersburg, FL, and Edina, MN who have passed similar resolutions.
The Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign, an initiative of the anti-genocide group in Washington, commended the city’s leadership.
Raise Hope for Congo Campaign Manager JD Stier said:
"Wisconsin is home to U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Russ Feingold as well as Congo activist Aaron Rodgers, placing Madison at the forefront of the human rights movement for peace in Congo. By leading the call to go conflict-free, Madison can inspire other cities across the nation to join the conflict-free movement."
The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more about Enough, go to www.enoughproject.org.
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