Documentary Photography

Documentary photography is a vital tool to communicate an injustice, a social problem, or other current issues.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Return to Congo

Poverty, rape, torture, villages burned, children taken by militia groups to be used as child soldiers, or work the gold mines, this is life in the Congo. My heart tells me people are inherently good, but what I have experienced and witnessed suggest otherwise.

  Rwanda on left-Congo on right

Thousands of people are trying and hoping to get out of the Congo!!!
I was trying desperately to get into the Congo!!!

After 1 1/2 days at the border, I was allowed in.
First, visa issues, then being a photographer, what I was doing there and everyone wanted money, lots of money.

The CID (Central Intelligence Department) arrived at my hotel at 7:30 am asking questions and wanting to search my camera bag, then I had to get authorization from the government.  Then another visit to the CID, passport photographs, calling my hotel to ask if I was there.

Many thanks to Women for Women International, Christine, Pierre, and Gertrude who got me authorization letters, photography permits, a one month visa for Bukavu and then another for Goma.  It was not like this the last time I came.  This country gets more and more greedy, not the people the government, it's organizations, and many departments.


Does this country have something to hide, that being a photographer is a threat?  The answer is yes, and what is hidden here must be exposed. I listed them above in the first sentence.
When the authorities should be out catching the thieves, and helping it's people, no they want to hassle a woman photographer that is here, trying to help the women, children and men have a safer, healthier, peaceful life. Well that's nothing new.

 Streets of Bukavu
This country is so beautiful, like a garden of Eden.



The Congo donated $2,000,000 USD to Haiti.  A generous amount for a country that has so much poverty.  I know Haiti needs help and donations, but I think the Congo could have used at least half of that to deal with it's own problems.  A few militia groups could have been wiped out with the money.  Schools could have been built, health care is a major issue here, and the poverty matches Haiti.

History: King Leopold II
The Belgium were the first to chop off limbs in Africa.  King Leopold took one hand for every 100 slaves, this included children, to keep them in line.

After a number of unsuccessful schemes for colonies in Africa or Asia, in 1876 he organized a private holding company, disguised as an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society.

In 1878, under the auspices of the holding company, he hired the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley to establish a colony in the Congo region.  Much diplomatic maneuvering resulted in the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, at which representatives of fourteen European countries and the United States recognized Leopold as sovereign of most of the area he and Stanley had laid claim to. On February 5th 1885, the result was the Congo Free State (later becoming, successively, the Belgian Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Zaire, and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC — not to be confused with Republic of the Congo formerly owned by France), an area 76 times larger than Belgium, which Leopold was free to rule as a personal domain through his private army, the Force Publique.

Forced labor was extorted from the natives. The abuses suffered were horrific not only in the rubber industry, including enslavement and mutilation of the native population. Missionary John Harris of Baringa, for example, was so shocked by what he had come across that he wrote to Leopold's chief agent in the Congo saying: "I have just returned from a journey inland to the village of Insongo Mboyo. The abject misery and utter abandon is positively indescribable. I was so moved, Your Excellency, by the people's stories that I took the liberty of promising them that in future you will only kill them for crimes they commit." Estimates of the death toll range from two to fifteen million. Determining precisely how many people died is next to impossible as accurate records were not kept.

It's people are hungry, many illiterate, they are living in constant fear of militia attacks, and war.
It has been many years of conflict and crisis in the Congo.
They say the red Earth comes from all the blood that has been shed.
When will the Congo get International attention and help, as it desperately needs it, NOW!!!

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