Friday, May 6, 2011

"Ruined": A Classic Example of Why Congo Matters

Guest Post By Maurice Carney, Executive Director, Friends of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is located in the heart of Africa. The country is the size of Western Europe and is bordered by nine other countries. It is currently the third largest country on the African continent in terms of area and the fourth largest in terms of population, boasting an estimated 70 million people. The country is endowed with spectacular natural wealth. It is a part of the second largest rainforest in the world, which is vital to the fight against climate change. The lush rainforest is a true natural treasure, home to over a thousand species of plants and hundreds of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

In the midst of all its beauty and splendor, Congo is suffering through the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two and experiencing the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century. Women and children have borne the brunt of the conflict in the Congo, which began in 1996 as a result of invasions from its neighbors. Hundreds of thousands of women have been systematically raped as a weapon of war and half of the estimated 6 million dead are children under the age of five.

Congo is arguably the richest country on the planet in terms of natural resources. It is the storehouse of strategic and precious minerals that are vital to the functioning of modern society. Its minerals are key to the consumer electronics industry, the technology industry, automotive, aerospace and military industries. Its diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, uranium, timber, iron, tin, tungsten, and coltan (mineral that is central to the functioning of our cell phones, laptops and other technology and electronic devices) are coveted from China to America. In addition to the significance of Congo’s resources to the modern world, its size and location in the heart of Africa makes it critical to the future of the African continent. It is the fulcrum on which the continent swings. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki says that there is no new Africa without a new Congo. While President Obama proclaims “If Africa is to achieve its promise resolving the problem in the Congo will be critical.”

Increasing numbers People throughout the globe are becoming aware of the conflict and the mass crimes that have been committed in the Congo.  People who are concerned about issues such as the environment, children, women, human rights, consumer and corporate responsibility, and the condition of fellow members of the human family are standing up. Artists, singers, dancers, filmmakers, authors, writers, actors, playwrights, activists, politicians and many others are beginning to bring to bear their talents, skills, expertise and know-how to raise global consciousness about the dire humanitarian situation in the heart of Africa with the expectation of ending the suffering of the beleaguered Congolese people.

Lynn Nottage, the cast members, director Charles Randolph-Wright and all those involved in the production of the play are classic examples of how people throughout the globe can use their talents, skills and expertise to raise consciousness about an issue of vital concern to the people of Africa and humanity at-large. Lynn Nottage’s work is a global call to conscience that resonates with everyone who encounters the play Ruined.

Visit us at to get involved and join the global movement in support of the Congo.

Friends of the Congo is one of the Humanities Council's outstanding partners for this year's Live to Read. Washington, DC's city wide celebration of literature. HCWDC encourages all Washingtonians to read the play and participate in the remaining Live to Read events. Click here for more information.

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