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Why Is There BLOOD On My Phone? – Melia Haile

You may often wonder how so many people could turn a blind eye to the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust. The global community proclaimed that another genocide would never be allowed. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a war that is reaching the level of genocide has been going on for about ten years, and we are fueling this war.


The sexual violence and rape, rampant killings, and looting of resources is rapidly progressing towards a genocide status according to Emory anthropology professor Dr. Vidali. One might then wonder, “What connection can I, an American living on other side of the world, have to this war?” The Democratic of Republic has one of the world’s largest deposits of a mineral called coltan. Dr. Vidali has described how, after refinement, “coltan is used as a vital component in the capacitors that control current flow in cell phone circuit boards, laptops, and other electronic devices, and according to the UN, every group involved in perpetuating the violence in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is involved in the mining and selling of coltan”. Coltan is fueling the genocide in Congo, and we are fueling the demand for coltan. Our desire for cheaper electronics fuels the cell phone and computer companies to buy the cheapest materials, regardless of where it comes from.  Greg Hodgin, executive direcetor of Tomorrow’s Peacekeepers Today says, “We fuel the war with our consumer culture and high demand for more electronics. This conflict is an ethical and moral issue. As human beings, we simply cannot stand by and watch these gross human rights violations and atrocities continue unchecked”. But what can we do as Emory students living on the other side of the world? First and foremost we must raise awareness about the issue. Dr. Vidali believes that even though the power of students is limited, we can still effect change. “Although students do not have much access to mainstream media, we can still use media outlets to effect change. Using twitter, letters to the editor, and the blogosphere we can promote knowledge and create updates about the conflict in Congo. As Emory students, we have access to numerous resources we can use to promote change.”


Greg Hodgin suggests that another way to effect change is to put pressure on companies to stop buying minerals is to utilize, “the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which certifies the origins of diamonds, in order to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the market”. He points out that, “We have the ‘power of the purse’, and it is up to us, as students desiring change and as consumers, to demand our electronics be manufactured with conflict-free minerals.” If we do not create a market for electronics with ambiguous origins, we will place pressure on the companies to find out where their minerals and materials come from.

One student initiative that stands out is one undertaken by the Emory chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, which held a fall symposium on conflict minerals in the DRC on October 28th, 2010. Twice a year the DST sorority hosts a symposium that addresses and discusses a pressing issue. The symposium was quite successful with a large crowd in attendance according to Brittany Bennet, president of Emory’s chapter of DST.  The symposium included distinguished professors such as Dr. Laura Seay from Morehouse College and Dr. Cherribi from Emory’s sociology department. The speakers highlighted the history and complexity of the conflict in the DRC. According to Bennet, “awareness about issues such as these is vital to finding a viable situation”. The Congo conflict affects millions of people directly, and millions more indirectly. One of the most memorable ideas presented at the symposium mentioned by Brittany was that “although the conflict mineral industry is exploiting the people for cheap labor, it is better for the people to have jobs than none at all”.

Awareness is already being raised on campus. One local Emory student, Omotola Ajibade, has written and performed a spoken word piece on this issue, titled “The People Don’t Know”. He believes that Emory has a direct connection to the conflict, saying, “Emory is connected to the conflict in pretty much the same way as everyone else. Everybody at Emory consumes electronics to varying degrees. On any given day, a majority of the people walking around on the Emory campus have cell phones, laptops, iPods, or any other combination of electronic consumer goods either on their person or in their homes. The goods themselves aren’t necessarily the problem; it’s the fact that there is an implicit cost associated with the goods that isn’t necessarily translated into the fiscal cost of such goods.” When asked about what we students can do to effect change, Omotola suggested that, “everyone be more conscious about the kinds of goods they buy and the companies they buy their products from, and then take it one step further and educate others about the situation in the DRC and hopefully those people will educate others and so it goes… Awareness truly is the first step to fixing any problem.”


One Response

  1. wow, great article! Keep up the great work!

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