Sylvie Luzala and Erick Kambale were invited to participate on Wednesday in the third edition of the Mobile Social Congress, organized by SETEM Catalunya. They were asked to explain the role played by mobile technology in the war, violence and violation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC contains 80% of the world’s reserves of coltan, an essential mineral for the sector. Members of the Congolese organization Étoile du Sud, Luzala and Kambale had also been invited by the Associació Catalana per la Pau (Catalan Association for Peace) to participate in an awareness-raising tour through towns like Manresa, Castelldefels and Cornellà.
None of these actions will now take place because the Spanish Embassy in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, denied the activists’ visa. According to the document rejecting their appeal, “the purpose and the circumstances of their visit are not trustworthy”, and “no additional documentation was provided to allow for a positive evaluation of their visit.” This contradicts Joana Mariné, the head of African projects for the Associació Catalana per la Pau: “we provided some 20 documents, including two official letters from the Government of Catalonia and the City Council of Barcelona in favour of their visit. We’re used to asking for visas in order to bring over activists from countries like Palestine, Yemen or Mali, and this is the first time this has happened to us.”
As the organizer of the Mobile Social Congress, we at SETEM Catalunya express our condemnation of this decision, which silences the voice of people fighting to defend human rights in the global South. It is worth noting that while these activists’ visas were rejected, Barcelona is receiving thousands of visitors from all around the world for the Mobile World Congress, an event where the electronic industry’s serious negative environmental, social and human rights impacts are hidden from view.