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Stop your gadget greed from fueling tragedy in Congo

As consumers, we can use buying power to end this deadly war driven by "conflict minerals."

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Your cellphone purchases might be fueling the world's worst sexual violence.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a place most of us will never go, and the war there is affecting people most of us will never meet. But the link between our demand for electronic products and mass human suffering is incredibly direct.

It is stunning that we as consumers have been completely unaware of the complex chain of events tying widespread sexual violence in Congo to the minerals that help power our cellphones, laptops, mp3 players, video games, and digital cameras. Thankfully, there is an alternative: Companies and consumers alike must use our buying power to bring this deadly war fueled by "conflict minerals" to an end.

Congo's protracted wars have led to horrific widespread violence by an array of armed groups. The war going on now is the deadliest since World War II. In particular, sexual violence has become a tool of war and punishment for Congo's armed groups on an immense scale.

The Congo war has the highest rate of violence against women and girls in the world. Reports – which offer low estimates since untold numbers of women likely choose not to report crimes against them – indicate that hundreds of thousands have been brutally raped. The immense scale of violence against women sets Congo apart. Were occurrences of such heinous proportions happening in our own backyard, we would have a greater sense of urgency.

Sexual violence in Congo is often fueled by militias and armies warring over "conflict minerals," the ores that produce tin, tungsten, and tantalum as well as gold. Armed groups from Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda finance themselves through the illicit conflict mineral trade and fight over control of mines and taxation points inside Congo.

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