Archive for April, 2010

Congo

April 25, 2010

DRC. Democratic Republic of Congo. Let’s look at the three words separately. Democratic. This means government rule by the people, either directly or indirectly via elected representation. Republic. This refers to a type of government where people choose its leaders and have influence over their government. Congo. Congo refers to many things: a river, a bassin, a chimpanzee who can paint, and a geographic area in Africa split in two, one called the Republic of Congo, the other with an additional qualifier, the
Democratic Republic of Congo.

One wonders really what is the difference between the two. They were formerly one entity and now politics and war have made them estranged siblings. One further wonders what makes DRC a democratic republic. Democracy for whom? And a republic for what? These are empty terms for the hundreds of thousands of people who live a life of misery, fear and displacement at the hands of both the Congolese army and elusive armed militants. There is no government by the people in this country.The unrelenting bloody and gruesome war in DRC competes for airtime with the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq. All three are messes¬† where innocent civilians die at the hands of agents with vested interests. In DRC, the innocent often do not know who is killing them, everyone is an enemy of somebody because of a Tutsi family member, or because the shade of one’s skin is fairer than one’s neighbour. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have life-long consequences with families forever separated, where children are raped and kept as child soldiers for armed groups. Women are kept as sex slaves and borne children from their rapists. Rape is used on such a massive scale that you would be hard-pressed to find a family unaffected by it.

These scenarios were often invoked in the testimonies of the 100 Congolese families I interviewed back in the Spring of 2008. I was interviewing them for resettlement to Canada and I was in Uganda, a neighbouring country of the DRC where thousands of Congolese refugees flee for safety and sanctuary . These crimes were so common place, the victims explained it with glazed looks on their faces, trying to piece the correct words together to describe their unimaginable horrors. Many of the refugees were religious devotees. And I too would be should I have undergone a fraction of their atrocities. In my name, Sauve, they saw a sign, a sign from above that I had been sent by the Lord. I found this amusing, knowing full well that I was only coming in at the very end of a complicated immigration process, and that my contribution was random. It could have been any other immigration officer interviewing them.  I left Uganda so much a fuller human being.

DRC. The war ranges on there. More victims continue to flee daily. I focus there when I am reminded daily of the news that I should care more for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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