Masika is just one of millions victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), however she has bravely spoken out about her experience. Masika’s family home was broken into by soldiers who brutally killed her husband, before raping Masika and her two daughters. The men then forced Masika to eat his flesh. She recalls: “They told me if I did not finish they would chop me up and kill me the same way they killed my husband. When I finished, they threw me on top of my husbands body and started to rape me. I had counted up to 22 men when I heard my two girls scream from the other room.” Since then Masika has helped thousands of women and children in a similar situation to herself. This horror is commonplace, Major General Cammaert, the former UN Deputy Force Commander said of Eastern Congo: “It is more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier”.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, over 21 different armed groups violently fight over mines containing four highly profitable minerals used in most electronics: tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. They gain access to the minerals and control the mines by terrorising local populations using murder and rape as weapons. Rape is the weapon of choice because it is cheap and the shame associated with it breaks down communities. Civilians are kidnapped and subjected to forced labour; since 1998 5.5 million Congolese have been murdered and tortured. These armed groups make £100 million a year trading conflict-minerals and use the profits to buy guns in order to continue funding these atrocities.
The conflict-minerals are smuggled through East Africa to Asia where they are processed in smelters with other clean minerals. The refined conflict-minerals are sent to factories in India and China to be made into components for electronic devices for American, British and European companies. Indirectly electronic manufacturers are financing this violence by not responsibly sourcing their materials. They are making millions each year selling merchandise that carries a huge human cost. Inadvertently we are helping fuel this terror by buying these products. All our mobiles, laptops and iPods carry a part of this war with them.
The St Andrews Students Association is the first in the UK to make a pledge to be “conflict free” and is officially calling on the University to become part of the larger Conflict Free Campus Initiative. It aims to make the University reduce its use of conflict minerals by using companies with stronger records of due diligence and transparency. However, there is much work to be done. Student awareness and support is essential for this to happen. The St Andrews Coalition for a Conflict Free Campus currently has the support of numerous societies but would welcome many more.
This is not to suggest a boycott of electronic products, but to create a demand for a conflict-free market, to have the choice to buy conflict-free products. Consumers ought to know what we are buying and where from, and ought to be able to have a direct role in changing the situation.
You can watch Masika’s story at: http://www.unwatchable.cc/the-true-story/masikas-story/.
The petition can be found at http://www.change.org/petitions/conflict-free-campus-initiative-st-andrews.