Day of Action, November 27 2008
November 25 2008
There is an unparalleled humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today. Five UBC students are taking a stand and have created the Africa Canada Accountability Coalition. Their goal is to call students to action. I spoke with Annabel Wong, one of the founding students of the operation.
J: What was it that interested you in this cause?
Annabel: It was because of this course I’m taking, POLI 360 Security Studies. For a project we were doing I chose to study the DRC and now I question why we don’t hear more about it. The first and second Congo Wars killed approximately five million people and it’s basically World War Three. It involves a regional dynamic. Each of us is a participant in this war, mainly those of us who own cell phones. As part of the larger problem we think we are learning world history when we are mostly learning about Western Europe. Also conflict erupted as we were doing our proposal so I found that we have the responsibility to do something.
J: What has your coalition established so far?
A: We have been talking to MPs. We have established a letter with three points we want the Canadian Government to address. We have been in contact with MPs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo area and Peter MacKay. We have been talking to Philip Lancaster, who was Romeo Dallaire’s right hand man, about the realities on the ground. We have been talking to professors and a lot of NGO’S. And we have our petition up so sign it!
J: Tell me generally about what your coalition hopes to establish.
A: In our letter we have established three points which are humanitarian aid; basically increasing CIDA’s funding, training personnel about sexual violence and ending the misdoings of Canadian companies in the region.
J: Are women’s issues important in this conflict? What is the connection between rape and the conflict?
A: I believe the situation in the DRC has incited the UN to declare rape a weapon of war. You really have to think about what that means. It’s not just a matter of semantics. It’s impactful to me that humans are used for sex and then they’re further stripped of their dignity. The rapists of a lot of women put a gun in their vagina in a way that they don’t die. I think that this is trying to send a message of threat. All forms of sexual violence can be found in this conflict. I think that’s so unfair.
J: What can UBC students do to support your cause?
A: Sign our petition and join our Facebook group. Talk to your politicians, friends and politician friends. Come out to our day of action on Thursday November 27 at 10:55am outside the SUB.
I think this is wonderful that students, take the time to build awareness to this crisis.
Every Voice makes a difference.