Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our mining companies' responsibility to the Congo: Response from FOTC Canada

The 2002, 2003 and 2008 UN reports from the Panel of Experts on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo establish a clear link between the presence of mining companies and the militarization that leads to crimes against humanity in the Congo. Moreover, it is the case that half of the worldwide capital raised for mining and mineral exploration companies is done through the Toronto Stock Exchange.

However, the remedy proposed in this article, voluntary corporate responsibility, is insufficient. To suggest that mining companies can solve the problem without addressing the issue of their very culpability is not helpful. Hence, this is a band aid solution that gives mining companies carte blanche to continue doing harm while pretending to be philanthropists.

As a Congolese, my people need empowerment towards self-reliance for security, social and political capacity building in the Congo within the framework of local institutions. Firstly, a transparent and equitable consultation process with the Congolese for access to their land via a wholesale renegotiation of the current mining contracts that one-sidedly benefit the mining companies.

Secondly, fair-minded United States and Canadian citizens need to pressure their government to enact transparent and mandatory legislative programmes to reign in the mining companies. Liberal MP John McKay’s Bill C-300 is a necessary first step.

Finally, Canada should take necessary measures along with the US and the international community to assert diplomatic pressure on Rwanda and Uganda so as to stop the latter’s support of militias and military intervention in the Congo. The West must favour a political settlement rather an illusive military solution.

Click here for original article!

Bodia Macharia, President
Friends of the Congo, University of Toronto

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hip-Hop Battle Packs Out Stadium in Goma

Cercle Sportif, the main basketball court in town, was filled with 3,500 people sitting in the bleachers, climbing on the hoops, standing on the walls, all pressing in to see the SKIFF hip-hop dance competition featuring seven groups from Goma.

The event kicked off with a local Taekwondo performance done Congolese style to the music of Lokua Kanza, the famous Congolese rumba and jazz musician. The dance groups followed with local musicians performing in between the dances.

The jury consisted of two professional Congolese dancers from Kinshasa, Lucie Mbuyi and Jolie Madala Ngemi, Ugandan breakdancer Abdoul Kanyinye, and Finnish dancer Anna Muionen. While the jury deliberated their decision, the crowd was entertained by a Michael Jackson dance competition featuring three groups whose moonwalks made one question if these boys were not somehow part of the Jackson family.

The top two groups were announced and danced off in a hip-hop battle both in groups and individually. The crowd voted on the winner by reverberating the stadium with it choice and ultimately the jury agreed; the prize went to the Street Dancers and the runner-up prize went to Lil’ Saint. Street Dancers won the chance to perform at Festival Munjansa in Kinshasa and Lil’ Saint won the chance to travel performing around the province of North Kivu.

Following the hip-hop battles, the film screening was Goma Focus, highlighting films made by Congolese filmmakers in Goma with actors from Goma. The films featured were Prejudice by Horeb Bulambo and 21 Puce by Modogo Mutembwi. Overall, the day was a success pulling together people from all different walks of life in Goma to show their support for local artists and for peace in the region.

Find out more about SKIFF and the youth of Goma

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SKIFF Workshop, Goma, DRC

SKIFF hosted two film and script-writing workshops led by Congolese filmmaker Petna Ndaliko and Kenyan filmmaker and human rights activist, Ndungi Githuku. Githuku and Ndaliko taught the workshop through the lens of the theme of the festival; how can art and film be used as a tool for development and social cohesion?

The students walked through the steps of critiquing a film and the research process in choosing a subject for a film. Ndaliko stressed the importance of Africans taking control of their own image through expression in media and art and creating an alternative way of educating Congolese thorough the mediums of film and literature.

The Congo has never had a functioning education system from colonization to the Mobutu dictatorship to the present day.

“People are not taught to think, they are not taught to ask for their rights, and the system does not give priority to the students. Our emancipation rests in changing the education system shaped by the construction of a critical, new media through films and literature,” Ndaliko stated.

Githuku and Ndaliko were impressed with the willingness and the thirst for learning from all the workshop attendees who told the two directors, “You have all this information that we want to know, how can we get access to this?” This is the problem that faces many African countries; especially Congo where it is rare to find relevant text books in schools.

“It is a matter of getting the information to the people in way that is accessible,” said Ndaliko, “we need to democratize the media space by increasing access to the internet and to books. We need to create regional and international educational exchanges so that people are connected to the information that will help them.”

The students finished by writing their own film synopsis after walking through research exercises. After reading their synopses aloud to the group, one of the students said, “We need more of this. We need space to be creative and people that teach us new ways of doing things.”

Click here to find out more about SKIFF.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vanguard Students Break the Silence