John Prendergast gave a talk, “Stopping Genocide and Mass Atrocities by Stopping the War Profiteers” to students, faculty and community members on Feb. 16 in the campus center.
Prendergast is a human rights activist, author and the founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit organization that fights to stop genocide and crimes against humanity in Africa.
Prendergast has done vast amounts of work and research focusing on peace in Africa.
“Genocide is one of the world’s gravest crimes…eliminating a group of people based on their identity,” Prendergast said, emphasizing the fact that this is a daily reality for many groups in Africa, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kleptocrats such as Mobutu Sese Seko, the former leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, profited heavily from this economic exploitation of minerals.
“Kleptocracies use tools of oppression like killing journalists and obstruct humanitarian aid,” Prendergast said.
There are armed rebel groups who also profit from these conflict minerals, by exploiting the mining areas and selling them on the international market. This segued into Prendergast’s’ segment on the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative.
Prendergast explained that minerals like tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold are all very sought after, as these are crucial in the development of electronics that we enjoy every day. However, the companies that produce these electronics such as Intel and Apple aren’t tracking where these conflict minerals are coming from.
He expressed his grief with the lack of effective sanctions and overall lack of support from the international community, and said that we should use a new approach to this problem, such as organizing together.
“There are people’s movements that gained traction and started cascading and things change. These things alter the course of human history,” Prendergast said, noting that the University of Massachusetts was one of the first schools to stand against apartheid.
He stressed that young people, especially students, are targeted by electronics marketing. Therefore, these students should be gathering and coming together to demand conflict-free minerals.
Prendergast is confident that companies will respond to their biggest consumer market and change their practices.
Tim Conceison, a sophomore majoring in operations and information management, said he came to the talk because these issues are something he has been interested in since high school. He is also a member of the student government and is going to share the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative with his peers during their next meeting.
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