“The Untold Stories” of Sudan, the Congo, and Palestine on Display at USF Student Teach-In

Sylvia Rubuye, pictured above, told the Foghorn, “I was so happy with the turnout because we had twice as many people as we expected.” Photo by Samantha Avila Griffin/SF Foghorn.

On Apr. 26, approximately 80 students crowded into the Berman Room of Fromm Hall for a teach-in about international oppression. At “The Untold Stories,” an event hosted by the Public Health Society in collaboration with the Middle East & North Africa Club, students from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the occupied Palestinian territories educated students about the struggles of their home countries. 

Speakers provided context for the current violence their nations face. Audience member Jaiden Woods, a sophomore international studies major said, “Honestly, I was so impressed with all the [speakers], you can see how difficult this is for them…the strength and resilience… to do this for their country, and their people… [and] make sure this gets out to our community on campus — it’s really amazing.”

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sylvia Rubuye is the president of USF’s Public Health Society, a student organization which educates and collaborates with communities in public health. Rubuye spoke about the Congo. 

In her speech, Rubuye explained that a history of violent colonialism and resource exploitation had created the conditions for the Congo’s “silent genocide.” According to Migrants’ Rights Network, “today, Congolese civilians are being massacred by the Rwanda-backed M23 rebels, as part of a long history of Western and corporate intervention.”

Rubuye said, “I remember talking with my dad…[and] him telling me how he almost lost his life… Unfortunately… my uncle was not as lucky. I remember my dad telling me about the grief he had to go through after losing his brother from being decapitated.”

In East Congo, violent militant groups from neighboring countries like Rwanda and Burundi have been slaughtering and mass-raping the Congolese people, according to the United Nations. The crisis is driven by the desire for lucrative natural resources. The Congo is one of the most natural-resource-rich countries in the world, but its people largely live in poverty and exploitation. Minerals like cobalt, an essential resource for the technology industry, are mined by workers, including children, who face slavery-like conditions.

Rubuye said, “This is not just a war about Africans wanting the resources of the Congo… the entire world benefits from it…I’m asking people from the bottom of my heart to never stop caring about Congo.” 

Sudan 

Rawan Abdalla, senior media studies major, presented on Sudan. “I’ve spoken to many people… and I’ve been told, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was a war going on in your country,’” she said. 

On Apr. 15, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan passed the one-year mark. More than 15,000 civilians have been killed, largely centered in the capital city Khartoum, but also wracking the rest of the country, particularly Darfur, the site of the Darfur genocide, which ended in 2020. Man y of the Janjaweed militants who committed that genocide have become the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that are now engaged in fighting against the Sudanese Armed Forces. According to the United States Agency for International Development, eight million Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes, making it “the largest displacement crisis in the world.”

Abdalla pointed to a picture of herself with family members. “This cousin, they fled to Egypt, and as for my niece and nephew, we actually don’t know where they are. So we have a lot of family on both sides that have been missing… I had some family that refused to leave, which resulted in deaths.”

Palestine 

One Palestinian organizer who spoke about the ongoing genocide in Gaza told the Foghorn, “Our main goal, obviously, is to educate… If one person walks away from this educated, that’s good enough for us.” The Foghorn has granted this speaker anonymity, per their request, citing safety threats and fear of retaliation towards Palestinian students nationally. 

Two student speakers for Palestine laid out the violence of Israel’s aggression on Gaza, using videos and infographics to illustrate the scale of the death and destruction. The death toll in Gaza has crossed 34,000, according to Al-Jazeera. However, authorities have lost an accurate count of the dead in Gaza given the collapse of civil services, according to the Wall Street Journal. Even before Oct. 7, 2023, Palestinians faced a lack of adequate resources for survival, but the situation has escalated. According to the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, 100% of the Gazan population is now food insecure. In the West Bank, Palestinians face an oppressive apartheid system and violence from Israeli settlers, whose illegal settlements increasingly encroach on Palestinian land. 

Audience member Roman Szydlik, a junior marketing and management major, said of the event, “It was definitely very eye-opening. …The students speaking [about what] their families are experiencing… I mean the whole time I was crying.” 

She continued, “I feel like I haven’t participated as much as I wanted to on campus… a lot of the reason why we don’t speak out or something is… I didn’t know a lot about it, so now I feel like I have the confidence with… the information that they provided.”

On Apr. 29, a walkout calling for USF to divest from Israeli-occupation affiliated endowments and investments, among other demands, turned into the creation of a “people’s university” encampment on Welch Field. The Foghorn will publish our reporting on this Gaza solidarity encampment in our May 9 issue. 

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, News Editor: Niki Sedaghat

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