By Delly Mawazo Sesete, Friday 30 December 2011 15.38 EST
My name is Delly Mawazo Sesete. I am originally from the North Kivu povince in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a deadly conflict has been raging for over 15 years. While that conflict began as a war over ethnic tension, land rights and politics, it has increasingly turned to being a war of profit, with various armed groups fighting one another for control of strategic mineral reserves.
Near the area where I grew up, there are mines with vast amounts of tungsten, tantalum, tin, and gold – minerals that make most consumer electronics in the world function.
These minerals are part of your daily life. They keep your computer running so you can surf the internet. They save your high score on your Playstation. They make your cell phone vibrate when someone calls you.
While minerals from the Congo have enriched your life, they have often brought violence, rape and instability to my home country. That’s because those armed groups fighting for control of these mineral resources use murder, extortion and mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations, which helps them secure control of mines, trading routes and other strategic areas.
Living in the Congo, I saw many of these atrocities firsthand. I documented the child slaves who are forced to work in the mines in dangerous conditions. I witnessed the deadly chemicals dumped into the local environment. I saw the use of rape as a weapon. And despite receiving multiple death threats for my work, I’ve continued to call for peace, development and dignity in Congo’s minerals trade.
But the good news is that your favorite electronics don’t have to fund mass violence and rape in the Congo, and neither do mine.
That’s why I’m asking Apple to make an iPhone made with conflict-free minerals from the Congo by this time next year. Apple has been an industry leader in both supply chain management and making corporate social responsibility a priority. In the past two years, Apple has taken great strides to source minerals responsibly and control their supply chain.
Apple is perfectly positioned to be the first company to create a Congo conflict-free phone, using minerals from Congo that further stability and economic development and don’t use slave labor or fund mass atrocities.
I believe that other Apple customers want what I want: the world’s first conflict-free iPhone. That’s why I launched a campaign on Change.org asking Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, to commit to making an iPhone with conflict-free minerals from the Congo by Christmas 2013. In the five weeks since I launched my campaign, nearly 50,000 people from more than 75 countries have signed on in support.
Apple, if you’re reading this, please give my family and my people a chance for a better future by being a leader for a clean minerals trade in eastern Congo. Commit to purchasing minerals from my country, but do so in a way that benefits communities, not destroys them.
You’ve always shown you know how to think differently. Now it’s time to think conflict-free.
Photograph of Congolese miners at a gold mine in Montgbawalu, Ituri district, eastern Congo, September 8, 2005 (REUTERS/Jiro Ose). http://www.biyokulule.com/view_content.php?articleid=2736