In the last two months I have been fortunate to befriend an inspirational member of RAPAR. Nestor and I first spoke on the phone while he was in detention at Brook House. Nestor is from Guinea and we spoke in French so he could share his thoughts more comfortably. He has since been released from Brook House and has told of the conditions inside and the difficulties he and others experienced there.
Nestor's friends in the UK are now his family following the tragic deaths of his father and sister and the disappearance of his mother in Guinea. Nestor is a valued member of our local community, he has volunteered at the Friends' Meeting House night shelter and is a carer for Manchester Quaker Elizabeth Coleman . Nestor also supports a single mother with three children and has been described as a father figure by the family. His wonderfully warm character is a joy to be around and we are lucky to have him in Manchester.
I also recently had the pleasure of translating an article written by another of RAPAR’s members. Barly, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo and active member of APARECO (a movement opposed to the regime in DRC), has written about the country’s recent history with particular detail about the last 20 years. It has been fascinating and deeply concerning learning about life in this vast area of Africa. The Congolese living in Manchester tell stories of persecution in a country tainted by the fortune of its natural wealth, a reality that is seldom mentioned in British media. Despite the country’s resources, its people are among the world’s poorest.
DRC has an abundance of highly sought after materials yet it suffers appalling violations of human rights as a result. Millions of people have been massacred and life is persistently disrupted as different groups compete for control of the valuable land.
One material that is central to the unrest is coltan - a metallic ore used to make most Smartphones - and DRC has some of the world’s largest reserves. As consumers, we are responsible for the demand of this material and therefore, albeit indirectly, complicit in the conditions that surround its extraction. By the time a new smartphone reaches a shop in Manchester the story of human suffering behind its journey is often forgotten. Much of the violence in DRC will continue to be prolonged as long as the demand for its materials continues. While we can admire advances in technology we should concern ourselves more with the ethical sacrifice that is now unquestionably implicit in parts of the industry.
The heart-warming company of the Congolese living in the North West is providing insight into life in their country. As well as making new friends from distant lands we can begin to develop an informed understanding of our connections with the region and how our collective actions can influence its future. But the social injustice in DRC is still not talked about as much as it should be. In just 10 minutes one can find out about what is happening there, and this search, ironically, can be made using the very machine that the country’s exploitation is helping to create.
If corporations are profiting from human rights abuses then they should be held responsible. The price of suffering that the creation of their products is bringing cannot be justified; our fellow humans' well-being should always come first. Let us think of our brothers and sisters in DRC and encourage discussion about the persecution there with them in mind.