Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rally in DC Urges DRC Intervention

Amnesty International held a rally in front of the White House Sunday afternoon, drawing an estimated 60 to 100 demonstrators who urged the U.S. government to more aggressively support the international peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo. Organizer Christoph Koettel (with megaphone in photo below) said the rally was organized in the last week or two in response to the growing insecurity of the situation in eastern Congo. Similar demonstrations are being held in various European capitols this week. The goal of the demonstrations is to make sure that the international community moves quickly to implement the Security Council's recent decision to deploy an additional 3,000 troops in Congo. A second goal is to urge that more be done to protect women in the region against rape and sexual violence.
Many of the demonstrators were members of local chapters of Amnesty International, including local colleges and a couple of high schools.
Speakers at the rally noted that the world's appetite for cell phones and other high-tech appliances has helped fuel the violence. These devices use an alloy made from coltan, a mineral widely exploited in eastern Congo by many of the armed groups contending for power. "We need to raise awareness of this problem," said Koettel, so that people understand that they are connected to the issue.
Father Jean Claude Atusameso, the executive director of the Jatukik Providence Foundation, which helps orphans in Congo, said that many people fail to understand the nature of the conflict in his homeland. "It's not a civil war, it's a war of aggression over economic wealth," he said. He blamed Rwandan leader Paul Kagame for supporting rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.
One specific legislative goal of the demonstration was to urge support for the International Violence against Women Act, which would increase US diplomatic attention on this issue and develop a more integrated and robust response.

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