GAD Coordinator Jeplock sent me these terrible pictures a couple of days ago – my first reaction was absolute disgust – how can evil like this exist. But also how something so disturbing could quietly pass by without any real media coverage (at least not to my attention). Has the ebola outbreak exhausted all the African correspondence we can handle – I don`t think so. The reason is that this happen too often to make it to the big headlines. These are not the victims of what is random acts of violence, these are the victims of something far more common in eastern DRC – rebels stealing, raping, mutilating, kidnapping both women, men and children to support the personal wars, many of them a proxy wars – a power struggle between neighboring governments of DRC. These rebel attacks are just one of the many dangers of living in DRC.
A overview of some the established groups:
ADF-NALU is a coalition between two rebel groups, lead by Jamil Mukulu. The National Army for the Liberation of Uganda group, who opposes the Uganda government, fled to DRC from Uganda and established camps in Mwalika, Bundiguya and Eringeti areas. They merged with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Tabliq Muslim sect, supported by the Sudan government on a religious crusade against the Uganda government. Together they form ADF-NALU
FDLR Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, located in North Kivu is composed mostly of ethnic Hutus opposed to Tutsi rule and influence in the region. The group was supported Joseph Kabila, who used the groups as a proxy army against the foreign armies in the country. On August 24, 2010, the United Nations confirmed that rebels from the FDLR and from the Mai Mai militia raped and assaulted at least 154 civilians from July 30 to August 3, in the town of Luvungi in North Kivu province.
FNL National Forces of Liberation founded in 1980 in refugee camps in Tanzania, where Hutus had fled following persecution by the Tutsi-led government. The group is led by Agathon Rwasa and is estimated to have around 3,000 combatants Agathon’s FNL was linked to three of the worst incidents of the civil war:
• The Titanic Express massacre in December 2000
• The massacre of 152 Banyamulenge Congolese refugees at Gatumba in August 2004
• The killing of Monsignor Michael Courtney, the Catholic Church’s chief representative in Burundi.
LRA Lord resistant army that we all know about after the Kony 2012 Campaign.
MAI-MAI refers to any kind of community-based militia group active. Formed to resist invasion of Rwandan forces and Rwanda-affiliated Congolese, but also to exploit the war for its own advantage. Mai Mai groups are also responsible for killing some 150 Virunga Rangers and suspected for killing 9 mountain gorillas and hundreds of hippos.
M23 a former rebel group created by Congolese soldiers frustrated over the poor conditions in the Congolese army, which as now has become a political party.
War changes everyone
Remembering an article I once read in Scientific America talking about our evolutionarily need to hunt – in conflicts this ancestral hunter starts going after other humans. This is true in many wars, where aggression give fighters an edge to deal with the high amounts of stress and fear. Studies suggests the more violence is experienced the fewer symptoms of PTSD is shown, meaning becoming more violent actually benefits your mental health, even making it rewarding and beneficial. (The study) This becomes even more tragic to know, when at the height of the second Congo war more that 30,000 children where fighting for various armed groups, raping and killing becoming normal. Children who become soldiers find it almost impossible to adjust to a new and normal life. Depression, alcohol and drug abuse is common among former children soldiers – often missing being a solider and having the power they once had.
Evil is not created in a vacuum. Evil is allowed to develop through ignorance and greed. I once asked an Congolese official about the situations in the eastern parts of Congo, referring to the deteriorating infrastructure, the lack of public services such as schools and jobs. Congo with all its recourses has the potential to become one of the richest countries in the world, creating both jobs and schools and open up their beautiful nature to tourists, I argued. His response to my question was a tale about a husband and wife trying to make their relationship work. The husband symbolized the government, the wife the Congolese people. “When suddenly a snake comes between them (the snake meaning the rebels)”, he asked me “Do you continue to discuss with you wife or do you remove the snake?” I was frequently told metaphors like this to make political points, to get away from the real discussion; who’s really responsible. It´s safe to say that the lack of opportunities, insecurity, frustration and lack of government responsibility and the struggle for power all play their part in sustaining the conflict.
While mothers, fathers and children are slaughtered – I and the DRC-official finished our Congolese Primus beer without finding any solution.