“Weapons of mass destruction”


A group of Leesville students including Gene Kim, Gabriel McNair, Bilo Hoese and Andrew Byrum recently co-founded a humanitarian group called Caring4Congo.  

Caring4Congo is a local movement, with the same ultimate goals as the national group, RAISE Hope for Congo.

Byrum was inspired to create the group after taking Holocaust and Genocide and learning about the turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Congo, rebel militia control mineral mines and force civilians to harvest gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten.  The “conflict minerals” are then smuggled to Asia where they are used to make electronics and then distributed to electronics companies. With the profit, rebel militias are buying weapons and further terrorizing the Congo with rape and violence.  

“These minerals are smuggled out of the country and are eventually sold to large electronics companies and end up in the products you, and I use everyday,” Byrum said. “So we are all indirectly financing the loss of over 45,000 lives each month.”

According to RAISE Hope for Congo , the conflict in eastern Congo is the deadliest conflict since World War II.  Despite the enormous loss of life, the injustice occurring in Congo is not widely publicized.

Byrum aims to change that.

“The goals of the project include raising awareness among the student body and community about the connection between the loss of life, home, and dignity and our electronic products, raising money which will be sent to an organization called HEAL Africa, and finally to make the Wake County School System aware of this issue, so that they might rethink decisions over purchasing certain brands,” said Byrum.

In order to increase awareness of the atrocities in Congo, Byrum and other members of Caring4Congo plan to sell T-shirts, organize a 5k fun run/walk to raise money and hold a benefit concert later this spring. Funds raised will benefit HEAL Africa in an effort to combat the atrocities in Congo.

By acknowledging and learning about the problem in Congo, students are one step closer to stopping the violence and manipulation of Congo’s natural resources.  

“Just because we are teenagers doesn’t mean we have a pass to be apathetic towards atrocities worldwide,” said Byrum. “We need to come together for a just cause and not allow thousands to perish as a result of our own materialism.”

Students can help by paying close attention to the electronic goods they purchase and boycotting companies who do not make an effort to avoid “conflict minerals.”  RAISE Hope for Congo compiled a list of companies and rated their usage of conflict minerals.  Canon, Toshiba, Nintendo and Panasonic are among the companies who are currently doing nothing to adopt conflict-free practices.  To view a full list of electronics companies that use deadly conflict minerals, or those who are on the right track toward purifying their products visit http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/conflict-minerals-company-rankings.  

Caring4Congo encourage students to write to the electronics companies of products they own and lobby to boycott the purchase of “conflict minerals.”

For more information or addtional ways to help, students can visit caring4congo.com.


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