The Democratic Republic of the Congo, sometimes referred to as DR Congo or the DRC, is a country located in central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 71 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world and the fourth most populous nation in Africa.
That’s the easy part. Explaining what is happening in the Congo right now is a whole other story.
The eastern part of the Congo has faced war for nearly two decades. It is estimated that since the conflict began in 1996, countless women and girls have been raped. Regional advocates have told stories of unthinkable atrocities that are taking place, including cannibalism, chopping off body parts, rape with tools and weapons or sexual assault of minors, as young as 10 months, and elders, as old as 87 years. A large number of the female population have endured sexual slavery, kidnapping, unlawful detention, recruitment of young girls into armed forces and forced prostitution. The DRC is considered, by the International Community, to be the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman or child.
A new study about the ongoing rape epidemic in the Congo has some rather terrifying statistics to offer. According to USA Today, 420,000 women are raped in the DRC every year. The Boston Globe estimates 1,152 women are raped every day.
Since the conflict began, an estimated 5.4 million people have been killed, with half of these being children under the age of 5. This is the largest death toll for any conflict since the 2nd World War.
Why am I writing about this? In June I will be heading to the Congo as a photographer. A friend of mine, Pappy, grew up in the Congo, and as a young boy fled to South Africa to escape the horrible things happening in his home country. Today Pappy is heading back to his home and making a feature length documentary “Congo – The Place I call Home” to document the impact of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo on its people, to raise awareness of the pain and suffering of the Congolese people and give the rest of the world an opportunity to be part of ending the injustice that is still taking place in the Eastern regions of the Congo. As a part of this project, I will be travelling to the Congo for about 2 weeks, taking photos to support the work, production and promotion of this documentary.
As we will be traveling around the eastern regions of the DRC, we will meet with victims and survivors, with perpetrators and child solders, with different organizations that are working on the ground and people in higher levels of government. We will go to places where atrocities have happened, the rich mines where mineral resources are being exploited, but also places where restoration is already taking place. Thus we will not only hear stories of devastation and brokenness but also try to find where sparks of hope and light are restoring the lives and souls of the Congolese population.
For more information about the project I will be working with:
Here are a couple of short Documentaries about the Congo: