NFL superstar campaigns for the DR Congo

Rodgers, JD Stier of the Enough Project, Chriqui and Mulumba
Rodgers, JD Stier of the Enough Project, Chriqui and Mulumba
Rodgers, JD Stier of the Enough Project, Chriqui and Mulumba
Enough

Aaron Rodgers saved the season for the Green Bay Packers in a must-win game against the Bears. He will step on to the famed frozen tundra of Lambeau Field against rival San Francisco 49ers with the hope of extending the season a bit longer.

When the NFL season comes to an end, whether through a Super Bowl win or a playoff loss, one of the game’s best players will continue a different sort of drive. Rodgers wants people to know about the atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and what can be done to weaken the rebel groups in the country.

His participation garnered the attention of ThinkProgress, Politico and even ESPN.

It all started with a conversation with a famous actress involved in the campaign, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and a feeling of emptiness after winning the Super Bowl in 2011.

Rodgers described his feelings to a group of University of Wisconsin students back in October.

“I remember sitting on the bus after we won in [Arlington, Texas], probably two hours after the game, thinking to myself, ‘I’m on top of the world. We just accomplished the most amazing goal in football.’ But I’m sitting there with a semi-empty feeling because I accomplished everything I wanted to do since I was a kid, and I kind of had a moment.

“I said to myself, ‘Is this it? Is there more to life than this?’

“And the answer was resoundingly, ‘Yes.’ And that’s why I’m here tonight.”

Rodgers was joined by Congolese Packers teammate Andy Mulumba and Chriqui at the event. The three represented the advocacy group the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for the Congo Campaign. Performances, speeches and dancing were employed to get the roughly 2,000 students in attendance to take a stand against violence in the DR Congo.

“You can have an impact in a tangible way. Something that you touch every single day, that’s your lifeline…We can say to those tech companies and those people, ‘We want to live in a world where our electronics do not fund rape and war,’” said Rodgers to the crowd.

He was speaking in reference to the gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten that make up everyday electronic devices from cell phones to computers. The resource-rich east of the Congo makes for a valuable investment for global mining companies, funds for local rebels and a wage Congolese citizens.

The campaign to stem the trade of “conflict minerals” has experienced successes and challenges. A provision in the Dodd-Frank financial bill included a provision (1502) that outlined new transparency standards for the mineral trade from the Congo. Supporters said it would shut off the flow of money to rebel groups, thus weakening their ability to harm Congolese. Opponents said that the law destroys jobs and over-promises what it can accomplish.

“Progress in cleaning up the region’s mineral sector is undermined, however, by rebels and members of the Congolese army who continue to prey on the trade. Armed groups and senior military officers derive significant revenues from the gold trade in particular, but local and foreign buyers are not carrying out checks to determine whether their purchases are clean,” concluded a May report by the advocacy group Global Witness.

Schools in the US and Canada are passing laws to become conflict-free campuses. The Raise Hope campaign leads by holding events and providing resources for student-led groups to make change one university at a time. Celebrities, like Rodgers and Chriqui, are brought out to draw people into the subject and activate action on campus.

The still-young football career for Rodgers has been one of success. His prolific passing sums and championship point towards a trip to the Hall of Fame. We may now only be seeing a glimpse of the next movement in his life as an activist for the Congo.

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.