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USF Cells Out


University of San Francisco 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 Bouwer.

“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 said.

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.

Written by Edward Carpenter »usfnews@usfca.edu