Sunday, June 15, 2014

Congo Swim Kicks Off Today


This Father’s Day, Sunday, June 15th marks the official launch of CongoSwim 2014, an opportunity for everyone to bring deeper meaning to any summer activity. Keris Dahlkamp, CongoSwim founder and a Contra Costa father of two, developed the collective action as a platform to break the silence around the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and raise support for Congolese groups working for a peaceful and just future.  It is estimated that at least 6 million people have died from war-related causes, half being children under the age of 5. 

Keris Dahlkamp swims Lake Tahoe
“If it were my wife or child being affected by violence in this way, I would hope that those who could do something, would do something.  Especially since we benefit so much from Congo’s land, I invite everyone to join me because every action matters.”  Dahlkamp said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most mineral-rich countries on our planet.  Minerals such as coltan, tin and gold are necessary to manufacture our computers, cell phones, cars and more.  Control of the land and these resources has played a key role in fueling the conflict. 

Parents are finding CongoSwim a great way to help their children explore global citizenship and how any regular activity can be a vehicle for helping others.  Upon registering, families receive information with appropriate language to speak with children about injustice.

Children participate in Congo Swim
“I joined because there are people in Congo who are suffering and I am here using an iPad made from valuable minerals that are supposed to benefit them,” shared a nine year old participant.

Last summer, Dahlkamp swam 22 miles across Lake Tahoe where he was joined by Coco Ramanzani, a survivor of war and rape in eastern Congo.  Coco, whose story is told in the book, Tell This to My Mother, is an activist and advocate for all women and children.  Coco says, “It is too painful to imagine that all that has happened to me in Congo is happening to other women and children right now… I hope all of you will join CongoSwim. I invite everyone to invest in a future free of violence, full of human dignity.”  Ramazani will return again to the east bay and speak on August 23 following a walk around Lake Merritt. 

To learn more and register visit or call 925.812.2496.

Funds raised will be distributed as grants by Global Fund for Women and Friends of the Congo to women and youth-led groups in Congo.  CongoSwim will be officially launched at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church (LOPC) this Father’s Day, with a call to action from Seven Hills graduating 8th grader Suzanna Creasey who walked 22 miles around the Lafayette Reservoir with her family as CongoSwim participants.  While the beneficiaries are not religiously affiliated and participants are from diverse beliefs and backgrounds, key organizing has come from the LOPC Congo Team.

For interview contact
Keris Dahlkamp                                                              
CongoSwim founder                                                                                                  
(925) 812-2496      

Kambale Musavuli
Friends of the Congo
(202) 584-6512

Monday, June 02, 2014

Conflict Minerals and Congolese People's Priorities

Speech to be delivered by Jeanne Kasongo L.Ngondo of the Shalupe Foundation at the Massachusetts State House, House Chamber on May 27, 2014

Members of the Senate and the House,
Distinguished Guests,
And Fellow Citizens of Massachusetts:

On behalf of the Congolese people, I would like to thank the Congo Action Now, Congolese Community of Massachusetts, Congolese Genocide Awareness, Congolese Women's Association of New England, Génération "R", Mwinda Catholic Community, Survivors, Inc., and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom for coming together to raise the profile of the situation in the Congo.

It is a privilege and an honor to be able to address this esteemed body to convey the most pressing concerns of the Congolese people at this time in our history. Although, we are here to discuss conflict minerals and the concerns of the American consumers, I would be remiss if I did not speak to the two most pressing concerns of the Congolese people. The first of these concerns is best expressed in a March 2014 National Geographic feature that recounts an encounter between US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and a few displaced Congolese women in a refugee camp. The author writes:
When Power asked, “What would it take for you to feel safe enough to go home?” the women all tried to speak at once. But, aside from repeating salama (peace), they didn't mention the things one usually hears are needed in Congo, and which these women clearly needed very badly: food, homes, jobs, government. Instead, they were concerned with geopolitics. One by one, they execrated their neighbor Rwanda, whose government has, according to UN investigators and others, backed militias in eastern Congo. They called out presidents and warlords by name.

“We don't want Rwanda to take a single meter of our land,” a woman said. Another got on her knees and pleaded for the international community to put sanctions on Rwanda. An old woman in the back called out, “Makenga and the rest of the leaders should be arrested.”

These Congolese women who could have asked the US Ambassador for anything; asked her for accountability, an end to the impunity and justice. The United States has heard the cries of these Congolese grandmothers and mothers and have begun to act by withholding military aid from its erstwhile ally Rwanda and we implore you to call on Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration to continue to hold its allies accountable and assure that Rwanda and Uganda cease their destructive interventions in the Congo once and for all.

The second concern and the most pressing, is the upcoming 2016 elections which will mark the end of a leadership that lacks legitimacy headed by President Joseph Kabila. According to the Congolese constitution, the president can only serve two five-year terms and Joseph Kabila's second term will end on December 16, 2016. Unfortunately, we are getting strong signals that Kabila will try to extend his stay in power, in spite of the tenets of the constitution and in direct contradiction to the will of the Congolese people. This represents the biggest threat to stability in the country today. This is the most pressing issue to Congolese inside and outside of the DRC. The Obama administration seems to understand this. During Sec of State John Kerry and Special Envoy Russ Feinglod's recent visit to the DRC, they made it clear in no uncertain terms to President Kabila and the Congolese people that Kabila ought to respect the Congolese constitution and step down. According to the State Department’s read out, Secretary of State Kerry said in response to a question regarding President Kabila respecting the constitution and stepping down at the end of his term in 2016 "the United States of America feels very strongly, as do other people, that the constitutional process needs to be respected and adhered to."

Respecting Congo's constitution and supporting the democratic process in the DRC is the most vital question at hand as it relates to peace and stability in the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
I appeal to you to continue to encourage the Obama Administration and the Secretary of State to maintain its current stand and policy which is in alignment with Public Law 109-456, the law that president Obama passed as senator that calls for the US to hold its allies in the region accountable for their destabilizing of the Congo and also calls on the US government to support democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And God bless the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
National Geographic Article

State Department Read Out From John Kerry's Trip to Congo