Student starts cell phone boycott

LaShawn Parker, The A&T Register
Published: Thursday, March 20, 2008 Updated: Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's your best line of communication? Your phone, the Internet, mail, word of mouth? However you communicate with those near and dear just think for a minute if that was taken away.

While the internet allows people to communicate easily through instant messaging, chat, blogs or spread a message to people, junior Kambale Musavuli had those privileges on one site revoked.

Musavuli, a native of Congo, was using the online community to spread the word about the war going on in his homeland.

The civil engineering major was able to connect the situation to people here in America. As a result, he was kicked off the social networking site, Facebook. Musavuli started his Facebook account in 2004 and the people behind Facebook involuntarily terminated his account in January.

He had created an event about a cell phone boycott he was promoting to help raise awareness about the situation in Africa After reading an International Rescue Committee special report released in 2008, that reported 5.4 million people had died because of war related causes in war in his country since 1998 due to illegal mining. "How can that many people die without receiving any media coverage," Musavuli asked himself.

"If that same situation happened on A&T's campus with those same numbers everyone on our campus would be dead within a week." This situation is very similar to the one depicted in the movie "Blood Diamond." The culprit Musavuli set his sights on wasn't a precious gem but a mineral called Colton.

"Coltan, a mineral used in computers, cell phones, DVD players, pacemakers and many other electronic devices is one of the many minerals illegally extracted and deported from the mines in Africa," said Musavuli. The United Nations reported $25 million mineral profit was made from illegal extractions from Congo.

After reviewing the figures and mortality rates, Musavuli concluded there were more deaths as a result of this war than those of World War II and the Jewish Holocaust. Musavuli felt an obligation to inform others of this terrible situation, especially since the crisis was relevant and relatable to all but hadn't received the appropriate media coverage.

Thus the creation of the Facebook event and the plea for participation. Participation in the boycott would require cell phones to be turned off for a maximum of six hours and participants to tell the story of the situation in Africa on their voice mails to spread the word.

Within 24 hours of creating the event, Musavuli's account had been disabled due to a violation of Facebook's terms of use. The reason? Facebook felt Musavuli had harassed other users by posting the event on his friend's walls. After corresponding through email with Facebook's technical support throughout the month of February, Musavuli concluded that Facebook would not reactivate his account and created another one.

He also discovered that he could not join the A&T network as before and his event was also deleted. When another supporter of the boycott publicized the event she was also kicked out.

"Facebook kept giving me indirect answers. They didn't handle the issue properly," said Musavuli.

Musavuli also discovered a connection between Facebook and Nokia and its $15 billion stock in Facebook. After more research he discovered the role Nokia had in the war in Congo, which gave the company bad publicity and may have resulted in a conflict of interest which would explain why Facebook terminated Musavuli's account. "Corporations and media are creating illusions to help distract the public while they are stealing resources for their own profit," said Musavuli.

Those who have agreed to participate in the boycott had no prior knowledge of the current situation in Africa however, they have agreed to promote the boycott and explain its importance as well.

The boycott will take place on March 26 from Noon until 6 p.m. Musavuli hopes that this boycott will at least inspire others to take some form of action in response to this situation.

Although this boycott has received criticism he still feels it is important for people to be aware.

For more information on the war situation in Congo visit or Google search "Coltan".

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