Instead of going out to a bar or playing dominoes, some residents gathered Saturday in the Casa de la Cultura to hear a presentation given by Maurice Carney, a representative of Friends of the Congo. He is touring Costa Rica during the month of the celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture. The event was sponsored by Informate Caribe, the same local group responsible for organizing the Festival de Cine last weekend.
“How does the Congo crisis relate to us, here in Costa Rica?” asked someone in the audience.
Carney’s campaign is Breaking the Silence, which endeavors to raise public awareness about the decades-long atrocities in the Congo that have resulted in the loss of more than six million lives since the mid-1990s. The Congolese are voiceless victims of this deadly battle over natural resources such as copper, gold, diamonds, uranium, and the metals used to make televisions, computers and cell phones, he said.
The 26-minute documentary, “Crisis in the Congo,” explained, “If you have a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife; if you are human; if you use any type of technology tool that is made of minerals mined in Congo, then this crisis relates to you.”
Attendees answered the question with a more personal response: Residents of the maritime zone may become victims of the power struggle between the government and corporations that want to take advantage of all the natural resources on this rich coast. But the Costa Rican people have won battles like this in the past. The 2003 film, “Caribe,” told the story of the solidarity of the Caribbean people in preventing offshore petroleum drilling. But the recent appearance of a black helicopter in the mountains near Bribri has raised suspicions that corporate interests are seeking to mine valuable metals found in these hills.
Carney also said that his group met with leaders in Costa Rican education to make plans for introducing an African studies program to the school curriculum.
The Democratic Republic of Congo most recently is seeking to have the M23 rebels disarm. There have been renewed clashes in Kivu province between the army and the rebels.
The Rwanda government sharply denies accusations it supports the M23 rebels fighting the central government, according to wire service reports.
Eastern Congo has long been wracked by war, fueled by historic tension between neighbors and the scramble for natural resources.
Thousands of people have fled to camps since the rebellion began last year. With fighting recently renewed, a new influx of people has put a real strain on resources and has raised the cost of living.