By: Joshua Howard
Although the Democratic Republic of Congo is 7000 miles away from Union New Jersey, Kean University students won’t let distance stop them from making a difference in the Congo. Over the last two months the Human Rights Club (HRC) has been working closely with an organization called Raise Hope for Congo to help implement the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative here at Kean.
The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI) uses the power of student leadership and activism to bring about peace in Congo. For more than 15 years, the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered intense conflict, mainly because the area is rich in minerals like coltan, tungsten, tin and gold. These minerals, which are in extremely high demand, are used in almost all consumer electronics such as phones, music players, cameras and computers. “Armed groups compete for access to these resources, exploiting the land and devastating local populations. Over 5 million civilians have died, making this the deadliest conflict since World War II. About 45,000 people die every month due to famine, disease, displacement, killings, and sexual violence” according to the World Without Genocide Organization.
The CFCI, is a campaign that helps build conflict-free electronics. Students, as well as schools, have a huge amount of power and say in this matter because students are the largest consumers of technology, and schools often have many computers, lab equipment and other electronic products.
Kean’s involvement in this project has gained the attention of John Prendergast, a human rights activist, author, and former Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. Mr. Prendergast stopped by Kean on October 9 to discuss the beginning steps of implementing this new initiative here on campus. During his two-hour long discussion with selected student leaders, Prendergast noted how important this movement is, especially because it is being led by students.
“President Obama, in 2012, set up a team of workers to specifically inquire about the growing trends and social movements of college students in this country ” said Prendergast during his discussion. He continued by stating “ the fact that we have the potential to get an entire campus on board for this project is really going to send a powerful message to legislators as well as companies that manufacture these products.”
The CFCI would send a petition to school officials stating that since we support so many of these technological companies on campus, we would like to see change being brought about in their mineral acquiring process. This change would request that these companies audit inventories and give public reports to consumers of where their minerals come from. It would also encourage the campus community to be aware of the issues tied to conflict minerals.
The petition is expected to reach school officials this semester. Although this plan is just in the beginning stages, Human Rights Club President, Kasey Walker, believes that this is a vital step in order to reach the end goal. “The biggest step is definitely raising awareness as to why this is important,” said Walker. “Not only is it important for us as global citizens but it’s so important that we, as students, can play a huge role in putting an end to the world’s deadliest war.”