Letter: State can help end Congo-based atrocities

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State can help end Congo-based atrocities

To the editor:

Once again President Obama has waived a congressionally mandated ban on military aid to countries known to exploit child soldiers. Among them is the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose eastern region is exceedingly rich in rare earth minerals; and exceedingly rife with decades of brutal war over those minerals, record rates of rape, sexual mutilation of women and girls, and the entrapment of children as soldiers by the government and warring militias.

The DRC and three other countries that use child soldiers will receive more than $161 million in US military aid in 2016. The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 bans our government from providing military resources and aid to countries that recruit soldiers younger than 18. It allows a presidential waiver in cases of "national interest." But what possible "national interest" can override the lives of thousands of children hardened in the worst of childhood nightmares — lives of being forced to torture, murder, and rape; and lives of being serially raped and made pregnant?

In Massachusetts, we can have the opportunity to know whether the conflict minerals mined in eastern Congo are in products sold within the state and, thus, gain an opportunity to take action against purchasing them, as have the states of Maryland and California. The federal Dodd-Frank financial services law requires that publicly traded companies audit their supply chains and report the use of Congo conflict minerals (tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold), commonly found in jewelry, electronics and cellphones.

Massachusetts has legislation, Senate bill 1682 An Act Relative to Congo Conflict Minerals, prohibiting companies that fail to comply with the Dodd-Frank law from contracting with the state. Once law, S1682 could assure that our state does not spend tax dollars on companies financing Congo-based atrocities.

Let us act to protect Congo's children from war and sexual violence. Urge Senate President Rosenberg (617-722-1500), Stan.Rosenberg@masenate.gov) and Chairwoman Karen Spilka (617-722- 1640), Karen.Spilka@masenate.gov) to advance S1682 An Act Relative to Congo Conflict Minerals, which is now pending in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, so the bill can be enacted during this session. With a one-minute phone call or email asking that "S1682 be passed into law this summer." We can make a difference in the lives of all in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

H. Patricia Hynes, Greenfield The writer directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and is a retired professor of environmental health from Boston University.


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