USF Students Continue to Stand Against Global Oppression: On-campus demonstration led in support of Palestine, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose flag is featured above being held by USF student speaker Lillah-Aaliyah Mbu, is a country whose lucrative natural resources are a driving force of armed and foreign groups, fighting for the land. Photo by Samantha Avila Griffin / SF Foghorn

“When Gaza is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back. When Sudan is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back. When Congo is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” approximately 40 USF students chanted on Mar. 7 at Gleeson Plaza, the Thursday before students went on spring break. 

After six months of organizing campus demonstrations, the student activist group USF Students for Palestine was announced as an official on-campus student organization. This rally was the group’s first as an official student organization. 

This rally differed from previous on-campus demonstrations held to support the besieged people of Gaza, this time including students speaking on behalf of the victims of war in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the first campus action this semester to bring attention to multiple countries who are experiencing humanitarian violations. 

Sudan 

“On Dec. 9 2022, I had the privilege of going back to Sudan with my family for the first time since COVID…. This trip was absolutely beautiful…. I hugged all my cousins tight, with tears in my eyes, and I said, ‘I’ll see you soon. I’ll come in the summer,’” said Rawan Abdalla, a senior media studies major, who spoke at the rally. “Little did I know… that would not be the reality anymore, as on April 15, 2023 — probably one of my worst fears, any Sudanese person’s fear — a war erupted in our country,” she continued.  

Sudan has been in the throes of ethnic conflict for years. The Darfur region of Sudan was the location of the first genocide of the 21st century, when state-sponsored Arab militia groups continuously attacked and expelled ethnically African people living on the land, according to the research center at the Holocaust Museum Houston. According to Human Rights Watch, in line with the goal of ethnic cleansing, the genocide displaced millions. 

In November 2023, the Rapid Support Forces, a formerly government-operated militia, killed and committed crimes against humanity towards civilians in Darfur, according to Human Rights Watch. United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres pleaded for international mobilization, on Feb. 8, to stop the war in Sudan. As of February, approximately 8 million people have been displaced from their homes and forced to flee to other parts of Sudan and neighboring countries, according to the UN Refugee Agency

“Of those million people displaced are my family. I am a first-generation Sudanese American here in the U.S.. I have the privilege of being raised and born here, whereas my family has to fight back home,” said Abdalla. “In Sudan, currently, they have not had any power, any Wi-Fi, any service to connect. I have gone four weeks without speaking to my grandparents, unknown of where they are.” 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Civil war and political instability have ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of this month, approximately 7 million people have been displaced by widespread violence throughout the Eastern region, according to AP News.

Another student, Sylvia Rubuye, spoke on behalf of the Congolese population. “For as long as I can remember, I grew up knowing about the fighting that was happening in the east of my country… I knew about the war. I just thought that, ‘it’s a war, it’s going to end eventually, I will stop hearing about it,’” said Rubuye. “I am about to turn 20, and things have not gotten better, it has only gotten worse.” 

Congolese civilians are fleeing their villages and homes amidst the crisis, according to AP News. More than 120 armed groups and foreign groups are fighting for access to the region’s gold and other natural resources, like diamonds, copper and cobalt. Additionally, conflict between rebel group, M23 and the government has further endangered and displaced civilians, leaving many without aid.

In her speech, Rubuye spoke about the detriments of the war on civilians, including ongoing sexual violence against Congolese women.

“​​How am I supposed to celebrate [Women’s History Month] as a Congolese woman…when I know that rape is just another form of weapon in my own country,” she said. 

War and political instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have plagued the country since the 1990’s, due to the Rwandan genocide and Congo Wars, according to Al-Jazeera.

“The notion of independence and freedom is really useless for Congo, because we claimed a so-called independence in 1960. But today the country is facing a new form of being controlled by Western powers,” said Rubuye. “Not only Western powers but also Congo’s own neighboring African countries over the fight for natural resources. When the Congolese population does not have a single say in the fight.” 

Addressing the crowd, she said, “We cannot, in any good spirit, appoint principles of justice when those who need it the most cannot even dream of one day having justice.” 

Gaza & USF

Since our most recent reporting on the genocide in Gaza, the death toll has passed 32,000 Palestinians killed, with an estimated 7,000 trapped under rubble. Both the federal court and the International Court of Justice agreed that it is “plausible” that Israel is committing a genocide.

Palestinians in Gaza are suffering rampant rates of famine and malnutrition as access to food and water have been restricted by Israel since Oct. 7. Palestinians are reported to be surviving off of weeds, animal feed and polluted water., according to CNN

There are multiple reported incidents of Palestinians in Gaza being massacred by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) while gathering at aid distribution points, according to the UN. This follows the Feb. 29 “Flour Massacre” where 118 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 injured by the IDF while trying to get flour from aid trucks. 

On Mar. 26, the UN Security Council passed a resolution for an immediate ceasefire during the month of Ramadan, nearly halfway through the religious holiday. The resolution passed with a 14-0 vote, with the United States as the sole abstention. The resolution also calls for more aid to pass to Gaza, and the immediate release of hostages. 

At the rally, Associated Students of the University of San Francisco (ASUSF) Senate Vice President of Advocacy Aderet Parrino announced that ASUSF Senate passed a Resolution to Divest from Companies Affiliated with the Israeli Occupation” on Feb. 28. 

The resolution calls for USF to “be transparent about the companies they are investing in by making them publicly accessible to students and families on the USF website.” As previously reported by the Foghorn on Nov. 2, 2023, USF is not legally obligated to publish their investment portfolio. In response to whether USF invests in any entity financially supporting Israel, Charles Cross, vice president of business and finance at USF, previously stated to the Foghorn, “We don’t own any such investments.” 

The Foghorn will continue to investigate USF’s investments and will report on any further developments or uncoverings in their investment portfolio. 

For more information about upcoming demonstrations, follow the @usfcastudents4palestine Instagram account. The Foghorn will continue to report on breaking developments in campus response to the Israel-Hamas War and crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. 

Jordan Premmer, Chisom Okorafor, and Sophia Siegel contributed to the reporting of this story. 

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

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