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The Root: What the World Owes Congo
'Breaking the Silence" Congo Awareness Week

Kambale Musavuli
Congolese Native and Contributor to The Root
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 12:00 PM

In his article for The Root, "What the World Owes Congo," Kambale Musavuli writes: "Last summer, the national news media announced the deaths of four gorillas killed in a national park in eastern Congo. A United Nations delegation was quickly dispatched to investigate. As a Congolese living in the United States and hungry for news back home, I was thankful for the coverage. But since my grandparents still live in East Congo, I would have also liked to have heard about some other recent breaking news items: women being raped, children being enslaved, men being killed, and many more horrors. I would like to hear about the nearly 6 million lives lost, half of them children under age 5 -- that every month, 45,000 people continue to die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); that the scale of devastation in Darfur happens in the Congo every 5 1/2 months."

Kambale Musavuli, who was born in Congo, was granted asylum in 1998 and is currently a civil engineering student at North Carolina A&T State University and an activist with Friends of the Congo, was online Wednesday, October 22 to discuss the ongoing violence and humanitarian crises in his home country, and share what he and other students around the world are doing to raise awareness of Congo's plight during this week's Breaking the Silence campaign.

A transcript follows.

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Kambale Musavuli: Hello All:

Thank you for joining me today to talk about the most pressing issue of our lifetime, The Congo. I am Kambale Musavuli. I am pursuing my civil engineering degree at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. I am a member of Friends of the Congo and also the Global Student Coordinator for Congo Week.

I am glad that you are all here to learn and discuss about my beautiful country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Zellik, Belgium: What do you think, if Obama is elected as US president, will he do something to stop the war in DRC?

So, the Democrat Party has a stake of responsibilities in the DRC war by the way of Clinton.

Could the Congolese still trust Westerners to stabilise their country or do they have to fight by themselves?

Kambale Musavuli: The United States President has the job of protecting and defending the US constitution. He is there to make sure that the US interests are kept the way they are.

If any President is elected, which will be the case on November 4th, Congolese should continue to press the issues we face. The world will not fix the issues of the Congo. The Congolese people will... and while we fight to regain sovereignty of our land, people of good will all around the world will be at the side of the Congolese.

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Fairfax: I think there is less outrage about the human tragedies in Africa for several reasons. First, it is so impossible to imagine. Most can imagine being raped once; none can imagine being tied to a tree for days/months and being raped endlessly. Second, it happens too often in Africa; it's Hutus vs Tutsis, it's Rwanda, it's somewhere else. Third, it does feed into the "savages" idea; wrongheaded, but there nonetheless. And what the heck can anyone do? It is such a vast area, remote, rugged, etc etc. So many ingrained beliefs and customs to overcome.

Kambale Musavuli: The conflict in the Congo is not as complex as you may think. The conflict is not about tribal rivalries as you are portraying it. It is fueled by exploitation. I always say that these crimes are mastermind for a mass displacement of the people in the areas where minerals are found.

A few key points

1. The rape is a weapon of war against women. Its aim is to destroy the society especially considering the central role of women in African societies, hence the entire Family is affected by the rapes

2. The source of the rapes is the conflict

3. The source of the conflict is the scramble for Congo's wealth

Hence, ONE cannot talk about the rape of the women without talking about the rape of the land as the two are inextricably linked.

To stop the rape, you must stop the conflit and to stop the conflict, you must END the exploitation.

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Munich, Germany: It's been two years since the election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and if I recall, there was a lot of hope for the future of the country. The Washington Post had an online chat in Sept. 2006 to discuss the PBS film, "Democracy in the Rough" and the Congolese election (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2006/09/11/DI2006091100839.html)

How have things progressed since then? I've not heard very much about Kinshasa at all, only news of renegade soldiers and militias in the east of the country. Is there still a conflict between the Lingala speaking population and the Swahili speakers in the east?

But one of the first things that I think of in connection to the Congo is the musician Ray Lema. Has music returned to the streets of the cities or is it still too dangerous?

Kambale Musavuli: There was an election in the Congo. It was definitely not as democratic as the West portrayed it. In a country of 65 million people, we had 13 million registered voters. Of the 13 million, 80 % voted yes for the referendum of the Constitution. And 40 % of them voted for Kabila as President. So the numbers says roughly 5 million people voted for Kabila, the current President.

The conflict in the West of the Congo barely comes out in the media. We have students in the Makala prison in Kinshasa because they spoke out. We have the Freedom Fighters of Bundu Dia Kongo that were killed in Bandundu, and a few months ago, the United Nations found mass graves of Congolese.

So there is a balkanization of the Congo. The East is controlled by rebel leaders backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The West is controlled by a thug called Kabila who does not hesitate to kill anyone.

The tribal rivalries are only fueled when you have rebel leaders such as Laurent Nkunda threatening to take over the Congo and the world allowing him to do so, by giving him military support.

It is never about tribal rivalries, more so resource exploitation, and the Congolese are paying the price!

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Arlington, VA: You mentioned the source of conflict is the scramble for the wealth of the Congo. What is that wealth primarily? Diamonds?

Kambale Musavuli: Congo has been blessed by so many things. We have gold, diamonds, copper, uranium, coltan, oil, methane gas, water, iridium, cobalt, and just many more...

This is what has caused the chaos in the Congo. We cannot assess Congo today without looking at its history from King Leopold's reign to Belgian Colonialism, the assassination of Lumumba and of course the four-decade long imposition of Mobutu on the people by the West and finally the backing of the war of aggression by Rwanda and Uganda. All being strategic points that promote the exploitation of its resources.

What we are mobilizing for:

1. An end to the conflict and an end to the suffering of our people

2. An end to the economic exploitation and for Congolese to benefit from the wealth with which we have been blessed. We reject the notion of a resource curse. If anything, greedy men are the curse, not resources in and of themselves

Visit our website at www.congoweek.org or www.friendsofthecongo.org for more info on the minerals in the Congo.

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clueless American: So far this discussion is way over my head. I'm not familiar with the issues already, so I have no idea what the posters from Europe are talking about, nor do I understand your answers (but I want to understand). Would you please give us a short resume of your take on things, i.e. what resources are being exploited, by whom, etc.? Please, very basic-level.

Kambale Musavuli: The Congo is located in Central Africa and is essential to modern technology.

All resources are being taken... trees are being cut down, coltan from the Congo is being put in your electronic devices and so on.

Companies like OMGroup, Cabot, People like George Forrest, Dan Gertler and Benny Steinmetz, Anglo and Debeers are all well connected in the West so they have no doubt played a role in the Greatest Silence. You should also look at Freeport out of Phoenix Arizona.

It is not as complex as it may sounds. AFRICA is the last place with all the resources the World needs. And the Congo having all these blessings is just one reason why Corporations rush out there to get the resources.

What the world, especially the Americans, can do:

1. Call for political path to Peace like the UN head for the Congo just did, Alan Doss

2. Pressure the corporations exploiting Congo's wealth to cease

3. Call on your governments to implement policies that benefit the people and not local elites and foreign corporations

4. Call on the World Bank, IMF and other multilateral institutions to remove the noose from around the Congolese neck. There is no way in this world that Congo should be indebted to any Western country or corporation.

5. Rally around the Congolese in protecting its precious environment and wildlife habitat that is home to the second largest rainforest in the world, which is central to the fight against climate change.

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Evanston, Illinois: You stated that it is up to the DRC to solve the country's problems with the help of the U.S. Many here are committed to helping, especially in the northeast region, but specifically what can we do?

Kambale Musavuli: The Congo face tremendous obstacles ahead and needs all of our support to regain its sovereignty

Here are just a few internal Challenges for Congolese

1. Develop their organizational capacity

2. Bring in new leadership that have the people's interests at heart and the leadership skills to meet the needs of the people

3. Overcome the debilitating cultural legacy of the Mobutu era

4. Articulate a vision that can rally the entire nation around a call of a hopeful future

As I mention on my last post we need all to support the Congo by:

1. Call for political path to Peace like the UN head for the Congo just did, Alan Doss

2. Pressure the corporations exploiting Congo's wealth to cease

3. Call on your governments to implement policies that benefit the people and not local elites and foreign corporations

4. Call on the World Bank, IMF and other multilateral institutions to remove the noose from around the Congolese neck. There is no way in this world that Congo should be indebted to any Western country or corporation.

5. Rally around the Congolese in protecting its precious environment and wildlife habitat that is home to the second largest rainforest in the world, which is central to the fight against climate change.

Seeing that you are in Evanston, you should connect with two wonderful people who are helping rebuild the schools in the Congo. Jan and Tom Sullivan. Their contact is sull1300@comcast.net

They really are working hard there to rebuild Congolese schools, thus showing that people of good will around the world are always found at the side of the Congolese.

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Evanston Illinois: What is Rwanda's role in the Congo's conflicts?

Kambale Musavuli: This was the rationale but we quickly found out through UN reports that both Rwanda and Uganda were looting the Congo of its wealth. At one point Uganda and Rwanda started fighting each other in the Congo over control of mineral rich areas. Moreover, for all intents and purposes Rwanda occupied Eastern Congo for six years and with all their claimed military prowess, they did not dislodge the Hutus, yet they found time to fight their ally Uganda. Moreover, they found time to extract gold, tin, coltan, timber and other resources from the Congo.

If Rwanda was having problems with the Hutu in 1996, they were on solid ground to call on the African Union and the rest of the global community to deal with this issue. But instead they chose to invade with the Backing of the US as outlined in a 2001 Congressional hearing by Cynthia McKinney and Tom Tancredo.

An end must be brought to the conflict. And the solution must be a political one not a military one. There has already been too much killing and too much suffering.

Rwanda and Uganda must be implicated in the solution in a serious way, particularly Rwanda. Pressure must be brought on Rwanda to stop supporting negative forces inside the Congo.

Political space must be created in Rwanda to facilitate the return of the Rwandans who are in the Congo. Leading world figures like Bill Gates, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Rev. Rick Warren, Cindy McCain and many others can play a constructive role in this. They all have the ear of President Kagame in Rwanda and can impress upon him the need to resolve this issue politically. These figures cannot consciously be working with children and orphans in Rwanda while an estimated 3 million children under the age of five die right next door in the Congo.

As it relates to the responsibility of the Congolese, National reconciliation is needed. Justice systems must be put in place so that impunity can cease. Those who have been wronged must be restituted psychologically, socially and of course economically. Unfortunately, should the foreign corporations continue to fleece the country with the collaboration of the current government, problems will persist and poverty will deepen.

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Columbus, OH: What advice will you give to individuals who want to help?

Kambale Musavuli: We want you to be engaged in our campaign to raise awareness about the conflict and provide support to the Congolese people on the ground?

Break the Silence Movement allows you to just do that.

Someone asked me earlier why people should care about the Congo?

Aren't Congolese humans too? Should you not care that your fellow human being is suffering? It is a scar on the consciousness of the world community to know that nearly six million people have been estimated to be dead in the Congo since 1996. Is that not enough for every single human being on the face of the earth to be concerned? Estimated hundreds of thousands of women raped, child labor and child soldiers, while we benefit from Congo's resources. Surely, this is sufficient to cause one to care, is it not?

Noam Chomsky talks about the power of the people and the media illusion (Manufacturing consent).

I want you in your daily lives to include the Congo. If you are a singer, sing about the Congo, a poet... write a poem about the Congo... a teacher... teach a class on the Congo.

Did you know that the Congo has one of the oldest mathematical artifacts in the World? It is believed to be one of the first calculators and a lunar calendar. It is dated 20,000 BC.

I know some of your friends will be amazed to see that they just learned something on the Congo they did not know.

I know I am running out of time, but I want to be able to answer all your questions. If I am not able to, just email me your questions to me at kambale@friendsofthecongo.org after the chat.

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Washington, DC: Hello Kambale, my name is Autumn.

While trying to talk to people about the Congo, I notice something interesting. I have received comments from a few African Americans who don't feel a connection with what's happening with the Congo. Which I find insane and very ignorant. I think to myself, how could you say such a thing, when Africa is where we as African Americans descend from? Therefore the connection is eternal. If you have experienced this, how do you address such comments? Thank you

Kambale Musavuli: World activists historically have been at the side of the Congolese. William H. Shepherd, the first African-American to become a Presbyterian missionary to the Congo reported in 1909 so frankly on the atrocities he witnessed in the Congo during colonization. George Washington Williams, another notable African American, traveled to the Congo before Shepherd and advocated for the Congolese when he called the atrocities happening there "crimes against humanity" after he witnessed the brutality of King Leopold in which ten million people lost their lives. Their advocacy brought other activists to create the Congo Reform Association and caused Belgium on November 15th, 1908 to take Congo away from Leopold II. 100 years later, African American students at North Carolina A&T State University have started a global movement to raise awareness and provide support to the Congolese people.

You should also let them know that the cousins who came here in the 1600's came form the Angola/Congo region. You also can't blame them. People of color have been mis-educated since we do not use our own curriculum. It is a daunting task to educate the masses, but one must do it!

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Hickory, North Carolina: Thank you for make me more aware of what is going on in the Congo. I was unaware that it was that bad there. I will be at your visit to Catawba Community College today Have a safe trip.

Kambale Musavuli: I look forward to the presentation this evening!

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Atlanta: How did you become affiliated with the Breaking the Silence campaign?

Kambale Musavuli: On March 26, 2008, students on my campus (NC A&T SU) organized a cell phone boycott. For about two years, I have been educating my friends and campus community about what is happening at home. After the successful boycott, we had students around the world wanting to do more since they did not even know what is happening in the Congo.

We decided to then have a week long event to educate the globe, and through the planning... many and I say many people came to help create this campaign. I am forever thankful for my friends who have supported me through all my travels around the country.

My affiliation with the campaign is more so who I am. I want to reach out to the whole world, to the leaders of tomorrow, so that 20 years from now when they become policy makers ... they will always remember their college experience when they worked with the Congolese people in their quest for peace, justice, and human dignity. I love my country so much and I know that Congo will be sovereign soon. If Argentina and Chile was able to do it in 10 years, the Congo can do it in 5. IT IS JUST A MATTER OF POLITICAL WILL!

I am going to get the chat to a close but wanted to add a few items for research

Our country was invaded twice by Rwanda and Uganda. It was these invasions that unleashed the mass deaths. In addition, small groups who are well armed and well financed are holding an entire population hostage. It is for this reason we are calling on countries like Rwanda who are supporting rebel groups to stop NOW. We all can become stakeholders at the peace in the Congo. We all have CELL PHONES...

The tribal rivalries have been exploited to benefit the west.

I also am calling all the Congolese, where we are, to unify... We have so many professors in renowned colleges who can rebuild our home.

I am making an appeal to the people of good will in the world. We need you to be our world supporters by pressuring your specific governments not to exploit the Congo.

There is a tremendous amount of hope and everyone can do something to work with the Congolese to bring about positive and lasting change:

1. Support the Break the Silence global campaign

2. Pressure their governments and corporations to do right by the Congolese people

3. Encourage your local and national media to provide better coverage on the Congo

4. Support the people on the ground

5. Learn more about the Congo and spread the word about the valiant fight the Congolese people are waging to recapture their country

Visit our website http://www.congoweek.org

We tried to have the most comprehensive website we can.

IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING, BUT CHANGE IS HERE!

Be sure you visit our website

http://www.congoweek.org

http://www.friendsofthecongo.org

And whatever your faith is, PRAY FOR US!

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