Breaking The Silence -- All Day Forum Commemorates 20th Anniversary of Congo Invasion

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On Saturday, October 15, human rights activists, scholars, eye-witnesses, and survivors of atrocities from the series of wars against the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will speak at "Breaking The Silence," conference in New York City to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the initial invasion in October 1996.

 

The all-day event will be held at ThoughtWorks, 99 Madison Avenue, NYC, 10016, and will include panel discussions and documentary film screenings covering: planning of the invasion; sexual and gender violence with rape as a weapon of war; the US’ role in the invasion, including diplomatic protection of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda for their role; ethnic-cleansing in eastern Congo to pave the way for illicit resource mining; and, accountability for the atrocities. 

 

The conference will have a special focus on the recent atrocities committed in the Beni territory of Eastern Congo. According to the United Nations, since January 2014 more than 645 people have been massacred. The keynote presentation by Mr. Boniface Musavuli will highlight the conflict’s impact on the people of the region.

 

Since the first invasion, Uganda and Rwanda have played highly destructive roles through the years by maintaining armies in Congo, training and arming brutal militias such as M23, and, repeatedly invading with their regular armed forces. The resulting chaos has led to an environment rife with illicit resource extraction, sometimes, in collusion with foreign multinationals, and often with complicit silence from the international community. 

 

The death toll of the Congolese apocalypse has been estimated as high as 6 million. More than half of the casualties are children younger than five years old. More than 500,000 women have been raped earning the Congo the ugly notoriety as "rape capital of the world."

 

The "Breaking The Silence" panelists, many of whom are from the East and Central Africa region, will discuss how and why a conflict that has claimed so many victims and caused so much physical and environmental destruction remains largely unknown globally.

 

"Sadly, the armies of both Uganda and Rwanda are supported by the United States," says Claude Gatebuke, a co-organizer of the conference, and a survivor of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. "Americans are largely unaware that their taxpayers' money funds atrocities in Africa. At the same time some corporations grow rich from the bloodshed."

 

"Each and every one of us can play a productive role in ending this well-orchestrated tragedy which is a stain on the conscience of humanity," says Kambale Musavuli, a spokesperson for Friends of Congo. "We have seen how the Movement for Black Lives has empowered youth and affected change not only here in the United States but in Congo, Burkina Faso, Britain, and elsewhere around the world. We will build on its global momentum at the Breaking the Silence conference." 

 

Organizers of the event see an opportunity for a reset of U.S.-Africa policy. 

 

"The timing of this teach-in is critical as we head into the U.S. presidential election," says Milton Allimadi, publisher of The Black Star News, and an event co-organizer, who hails from Uganda. "The new administration which takes office in January must review U.S. - Africa policy. The lives of millions of Africans can't be traded for short-term expediency. International media must step up its role; we demand accountability, justice and an end to impunity at the local, national, regional and international levels." 

 

"Breaking The Silence" conference  will open with registration and welcome breakfast at 8 AM, followed by panel discussions, film screenings, and lunch keynote before wrapping up with a prescriptions for taking action to advance peace, justice and stability in the Congo and Great Lakes Region of Africa.

 

For the event's complete schedule please see www.congoevents.org

 

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