I have just read this really inspiring, eye-opening book called Gorilla Dawn.
It’s set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo has been in fierce conflict between armed rebel groups and the government soldiers for over two decades now. Gorilla Dawn is about the innocent people that get caught up in this hostile fighting, especially children. It is also about how greed can affect everyone.
Rebels take children to become soldiers in their camps. The children are trained to be killers, yet at heart they are only kids. They do not want to fight, their only wish is to have peace. They should be at school and playing with their friends.
These armed groups need to be stopped, but how can this be done? Well, there is one way……….
Government troops are funded by the government, but how do the rebels get money? Deep in the forests, buried underground, there is a mineral: The key to the rebel’s wealth. This mineral is called tantalum and it can be extracted from coltan ore, which is found abundantly in Congo. Tantalum is very precious, it is needed in all electronic devices, it is mostly used in mobile phones.
So the rebels dig mines, or rather the rebels get the children to dig mines. This is extremely dangerous, but the rebels don’t care. The children are often killed in these mines, it is not uncommon that they die of exhaustion and hunger too. They work so hard for so long with so little food.
The mining also affects nature because the mines are dug on the reserves that are their homes. The gorillas, like in Gorilla Dawn, are put in danger. The brave rangers daily risk their lives to try and help all of the nature that the mining destroys.
You cannot close down all the the mines, because there are many conflict free mines that provide the Congolese with work and allow them to support their families. Tantalum mining is the main industry in Congo, you cannot just stop it. These mines have been made safe, with open mining areas instead of tunnels. Money has been spent on safety equipment because people care.
So a law has been passed, all U.S electronics companies must report to the U.S Security and Exchange Commission what tantalum they are using and provide proof that they are not fuelling armed rebel groups. This is a big step towards achieving peace in Congo, because the rebel groups are losing money.
It is very important for the word to get spread about child soldiers and tantalum mining, you can help by:
1. When you next buy a new electronic device think about what company you buy it from. Some are more supportive of the conflict free tantalum cause than others. Do a bit of research and find out what you can. Some of the best companies include: Intel, HP, SanDisk, Philips and AMD. Some companies you may want to avoid include: Nintendo, Sharp, Nikon and Canon.
2. Make your voice heard! Tell your friends about conflict free tantalum! Tell your friends about child soldiers! Talk to your teacher about it! The more people who know, the better.
3. Read Gorilla Dawn. You will be as inspired as I was when I finished it.
4. Adopt a gorilla at WWF, they use your money to help the rangers protect these wonderful animals.
5. Fundraise for War Child. This charity helps children who have been directly involved in conflict. Visit their website at http://www.warchild.org
6. You can get the War Child School Officer, May, to come and visit your home ed group or school if you live in London or the sorrounding area. Just contact her on the War Child website.