University of San
students enrolled in the first year seminar A Season in the Congo have invited
the campus community to “cell out” Thursday in Harney Plaza as part of this
week’s Congo Week, a series of campus events and speakers organized to raise awareness about a
12-year-old war that rages on in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Although peace accords were signed in 2003, the war between
competing African nations and interests over the DRC’s natural resources has
continued in the eastern portion of the country, killing 5.4 million. The
prevalence of rape and sexual violence against women in the country are
described as among the worst in the world.
USF students began taking part in Congo Week for the first
time last fall as part of their coursework in A Season in the Congo, under
Associate Professor of modern and classical languages and African studies Karen
“The students are tasked with putting on a series of events
to bring awareness to the situation in the eastern part of the Congo,” Bouwer
At the heart of Thursday’s cell out, an
organized cell phone usage “fast” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is the mineral Coltan
found in abundance in DRC. When refined, Coltan becomes a heat resistant powder
that is used in many electronics, such as cellular phones.
Coltan is a key source of conflict in the DRC, according to The Friends of the Congo,
a nonprofit devoted to spreading participation in Congo Week.
During the cell out, participants are ask not to talk or
text on their phones and to leave a pre-designated voicemail message to raise
awareness and show solidarity with Congolese people.
In a related Congo Week event Wednesday, Manu Kapapa, former president of the INGA
Association: Community of Congolese and Friends of Northern California speaks
about his organization’s work in the DRC from 6-8 p.m. in Cowell Hall 106.
In her recently published book Gender and Decolonization in the Congo: The Legacy of Patrice Lumumba, Bouwer re-examines the DRC’s iconic independence figure, questioning the
identification of a single male figure with the country’s struggle against Belgium and highlights the roles of many female political leaders in the fight.