Every awards season, there is always buzz about a particular film that highlights a tragedy. This year, the buzz was about the movie Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a West African warlord during a civil war. Elba garnered tremendous praise for his harrowing depiction of his role as The Commandant. But soon, awards season will pass and Beasts of No Nation will simply be remembered as a raw and moving portrait of an unthinkable situation.
And yet, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been dealing with this unthinkable situation for years. Consecutive civil wars in the DRC have claimed about five million lives between 1996 and 2003, leading it to become the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. Hutu genocidaires (or perpetuators of genocide) entered the eastern provinces of the DRC shortly after the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and were quickly invaded by other Rwandan and Ugandan forces and drew in several other surrounding countries as well.
Ignoring the numerous peace agreements, violence in the DRC continues to be an everyday occurence. Civilians in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale continue to be raped, killed and tortured by both government and rebel forces. In fact, rape is so prevalent as a weapon of war in the DRC that it has become known as the “rape capital of the world”, with 1,000 women being raped daily, at the horrifying rate of 48 women per hour. The conflict is perpetuated by the presence of Joseph Kony and the LRA, and revenue made from the sale of mined materials has allowed armed groups to fund their devastating military campaigns. A failed presidential election in 2011 has led to another surge of violence in the DRC.
The United Nations has tried to intervene for years, and peace deals have been continued to be brokered to no avail. Military and government reform is needed to save the 2.7 million internally displaced people inside the DRC; to save the 43,000 children working in mineral mines; to save the 4,000 that have been forced to be child soldiers.
The civilian fight in the DRC is far from over. It’s time to stop looking at these struggles as simply ideas for a movie plot. It’s time to get educated, get involved and get these people the assistance they so desperately need.
– Lauren Antilety