WORCESTER, Mass.—Hundreds gathered in central Massachusetts on Saturday seeking ways to raise public awareness about how the vast mineral riches in the Democratic Republic of Congo have helped fuel wars and violence in the central African nation for over a decade.
Dozens of armed groups operate in mineral-rich eastern Congo, funded by mining and trading in lucrative reserves of gold, copper, diamonds, coltan, cassiterite and other minerals. The minerals are used in cell phones, computers and other electronic devices.
Nearly 1,000 activists at a two-day summit at Clark University in Worcester, which began Saturday, want to bring public attention to the situation and find ways to weaken the market for coltan and other minerals exploited by the armed groups in Congo's eastern provinces.
The summit, titled "Informed Activism: Armed Conflict, Scarce Resources and Congo," was organized by the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark, in partnership with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Jewish World Watch.
Among the discussion topics: sexual violence, humanitarian aid interventions and the complexities of consumer boycotts. Other topics include lessons from the Kimberly Process, which tries to prevent diamonds from areas in conflict from reaching the market.
Summit participants also planned to discuss the link between mass violence and mineral extraction in Congo, where several humanitarian agencies have said armed groups use rape as a tool of war.
Congo is holding presidential and legislative elections in November. It's only the second multiparty vote there in more than 40 years and a key indicator of whether democracy is taking hold in the nation of 68 million people, which is still recovering from back-to-back civil wars that ended in 2003.