Documentary Photography

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

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Congo's Conflicts, Crisis and Hope

Eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)  has many problems of corruption, lack of education, diseases that are killing people because they can't afford a doctor or hospital, hunger and lack of food is a problem, sexual violence is a weapon of war daily, just to list a few.  Women are not acknowledged as even human beings with feelings, they are used for child bearing, raped daily, and often left to raise the child alone.  Children, women and men are traumatized by these attacks on their homes and villages. Rebels fighting rebels.  My question is, "Who is backing these militia groups with weapons and ammunition?"
Veronica told me her 17 year old son, was forced to watch as she was gang raped by rebels, he has moved to Goma, and it is too painful for him to see his mother as it brings back that horrific day in his life.  This woman's husband abandoned her, as he says, "I can't touch you now after all those men, you may have disease,  you are no longer my wife" he left, never to be seen again.

Many of these men have difficulty preforming sexually after the atrocities they witnessed.
Nuru (which means light) 24 years old was 8 months pregnant, this will be her 4th child.  She's married, but, her husband can't work, he is epileptic. When she was 17 years old 8 Interhamwe came into her home.  They demanded that her own father rape her, he refused.  They told her to lie down, spread her legs and demanded her father to rape her, again her father refused, saying I can't do this, she is my daughter.  He had a knife driven into the side of his body and then his genitals were cut off, by the Interhamwe he bled to death.  Nuru also had a sister, after this disgusting act on inhumane violence, the Intehamwe told her mother to go into the house and cook for them as they were hungry.  The mother told the 2 girls to run as she was cooking.  They didn't get far, there were more Interhamwe. Nuru was raped by 6 men, her sister raped also, how many times we don't know.  Nuru's sister was traumatized by the way her father died and her rape, she died, from starvation, she refused to eat, sleep, or move, she was catatonic from the trauma.
These are just 2 stories that I videoed there are 16 other stories.  7 1/2 hours of video tape. These women want the world to know what has, and is happening in their villages daily.  They live in fear for their children, their husbands and their own lives.  They get no help for hospital treatment, from the government,  after everything they own has been taken from them. There is no trauma centre in their village, they live in a war zone. For their safety I am not putting their faces on this blog.  You can hear their stories from them at a fund raiser to help Women of the Congo.

This is a boy whom I know is in a safe place.  He was taken by rebels into the forest for months, what he saw traumatized him.  This child has seen killings and rapes, over and over and over again. What is his future going to be?  He was quiet, and very fragile, but could become aggressive at any time.
Maybe a Hollywood movie would bring International attention as it did for Rwanda (Hotel Rwanda), Sierra Leone (Blood Diamonds), (but people still buy diamonds, many diamonds, blood diamonds).The freedom of Nelson Mandela was pressure from the media, the UN, peaceful warriors around the world, and several movies helped.  When will the media continue to cover these atrocities in the Congo.  There are good men there, I met some, but I also lost a good friend who knew too much, he was poisoned.
This country is very rich in natural resources, gold, titanium, diamonds, and coltran ( used in all of our cell phones and computers).  The Congolese government controls these mines.  Children are working them, very young and small children as they are able to get into the small caverns where diamonds are.  These children are not going to school and are not getting paid.  Even the men that work these mines don't get paid for months, if they get paid.
If these children do not get an education they will become what they have experienced. War lords, that make a living off children.  Rebels (they have money, clothing, food, weapons, because they attack peoples homes and steal them).   These are the examples set for these innocent children. If they are not educated this vicious cycle will continue and could cause another war.
This is an International Crisis and crimes against humanity.  WE must come together as a global community to put pressure on the government, refuse to buy gold from the Congo and find other suppliers of coltran or these atrocities will continue.  WE must stop this cycle of violence that has been going on for over 20 years in the Congo. Yes the Congo is a huge and beautiful country, but it' people are suffering.  The average income is $150.00 USD a month for a family, this is the class that are educated and have jobs, good jobs.  There is better, and, there is much worse.
I met a few good political leaders, Julien Paluku, Governor of N. Kivu and another person going to run for member of parliment in S. Kivu (who's name I can not mention at this time)  but these 2 men are young and have great hopes for  a new future for Eastern Congo.  They are living dangerously as they want change and education, that many political leaders don't care about. The Mayor of Bukavu a woman is sensitive to the women's plight in her country.  But there are few women in political positions in the DRC only 13% are women.  Can this country be changed and the people live in peace and unity.  It has in Rwanda, so I believe one day at a time one country at a time, but WE must participate in this change, these people desperately need our help and  being in the Congo I know many today have hope, because someone cared enough to come to meet them, hold their hand, listen to their stories, and hug them for their courage and strength.  As these women did not speak only for themselves, they spoke for all women of the DRC.  I promised to be their voice, and I will keep this promise to these incredible women of the Congo.  I hope others reading this and sharing it with friends, families, co workers will also be their voice.  As WE are their hope, for a safer tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Sonya,
    You don't know me, but I too am apart of 'A Thousand Sisters.'. I I want to applaud your work, your dedication, your voice. I am very inspired by your selflessness in using your talents to bring attention to the Congolese. Thanks to you, dear sister.

    Ande Uriguen