On December 13, 2008 the Congolese Community of BC held a conference at the Vancouver Public Library on the undeclared genocide taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Approximately 60 people came out to show their support for those who are suffering in Congo, to discuss practical immediate steps that can be taken by people in Canada, and to try to find long term solutions to the ongoing challenges presented by armed conflict and neocolonial resource extraction in Central Africa.
Dr. Mambo Masinda, president of the Congolese Community of BC, opened the event by asking guests to consider whether the current violence in Congo, which has already caused the deaths of 5.4 million people, should be considered “genocide” under the terms of UN conventions, and the possible implications for international responses. Alain Musende , a doctoral candidate in Pathology at UBC, spoke next about the causal links between the extraction of resources such as coltan by private corporations based in Europe and North America, the global trade in weapons, and armed conflict in the DRC. He also drew attention to the complicity of neighbouring governments and the intricate connections between the wealthy lifestyles of people in Canada and the devastating poverty and violence in Eastern Congo. He ended however, on a hopeful note that with enough public support, current peacebuilding efforts will be successful. Tanja Bergen, one of the founders of the African Canadian Accountability Coalition (ACAC), continued by outlining the actions ACAC has taken to increase public and political awareness of the events in Congo. She also reminded the audience of the widespread sexual violence being committed against women, which is used as a weapon of war to destroy families and communities and to displace people so that resource extraction can occur. She stressed that for peacebuilding to be successful, women have to be involved as equal partners locally, nationally and internationally. Finally, BC Senator Mobina Jaffer offered encouraging advice about the contribution that Canadian citizens and the African diaspora can make to peace in the DRC. For example, writing personal letters (not emails or form letters) to elected officials is an important means of focusing politicians’ attention on key issues such as increasing the amount and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance for displaced people, and encouraging the Canadian government to take legal action to break the links between Canadian corporations, armed conflict, and the pillaging of Congo’s resources. Just fifteen minutes spent writing a short letter can make a real difference.
Displaced children comprise the majority of the victims in Congo.