Did you know that a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas live in the Virunga National Park? Let’s help protect their home. #SOSvirunga
Posts tagged congo.
Richard Mosse: Infra
The decades of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken an unimaginable toll on the country, over 5.4 million deaths, and 400,000 rapes. This climate of perpetual violence, without clear heroes but with unimaginable numbers of victims, defies concise summary. Using infrared film developed by the US Millitary, Richard Mosse transports the soldiers and surrounding jungles of the Congo into an uncanny fluorescent and rose tinted reality. The human eye is blind to the light captured here. Infra confronts the blindspots of documentary photography in the face of political disorder, and attempts a stark reconsideration of the most violent war since World War II.
Over the past three years, MSF teams have witnessed a rather astonishing rise in the number of malaria cases in Democratic Republic of Congo. For its part, MSF is now responding to outbreaks in six separate provinces in the east and north of the country, but a wider, more concerted effort is urgently needed to battle this potentially fatal disease that traditionally afflicts the young and the infirm. Learn more.
Infographic by will owen
From the end of the 19th century through the turn of the 20th century, King Leopold II of Belgium ran the so-called Congo Free State as his private property, amassing an enormous fortune by turning most adult males into slaves to collect wild rubber and ivory from the jungle. The women and children were held hostages—their hands, noses and ears often chopped off when the men in their families did not meet their rubber quota or failed to return.
For over 23 years, Leopold’s army forced hundreds of thousands of slaves to work in killing conditions where many died from exhaustion. Some 20 slave uprisings were put down with extreme bloodthirstiness. After the Belgians discovered gold in 1903, they worked thousands to death in gold mines. It has been estimated that about 10 million people out of a population of 20 million lost their lives under King Leopold’s barbarous rule.
Villages which failed to meet the rubber collection quotas were required to pay the remaining amount in severed hands, where each hand would prove a kill. Sometimes the hands were collected by the soldiers of the Force Publique, sometimes by the villages themselves. There were even small wars where villages attacked neighbouring villages to gather hands, since their rubber quotas were too unrealistic to fill.
One junior white officer described a raid to punish a village that had protested. The white officer in command
‘ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades … and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross.’
After seeing a Congolese person killed for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote:
‘The soldier said “Don’t take this to heart so much. They kill us if we don’t bring the rubber. The Commissioner has promised us if we have plenty of hands he will shorten our service.”‘
In Forbath’s words:
The baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State. … The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber; they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber… They became a sort of currency. They came to be used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace… the people who were demanded for the forced labour gangs; and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonuses on the basis of how many hands they collected.
In theory, each right hand proved a killing. In practice, soldiers sometimes “cheated” by simply cutting off the hand and leaving the victim to live or die. More than a few survivors later said that they had lived through a massacre by acting dead, not moving even when their hands were severed, and waiting till the soldiers left before seeking help. In some instances a soldier could shorten his service term by bringing more hands than the other soldiers, which led to widespread mutilations and dismemberment.
Why am I posting this, of all things? There’s talk in the MSM that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is a legitimate historian and a renowned academic. His only real academic work, his PhD dissertation, which has never been cited, concludes that Belgian rule over the Congolese was positive and modernized the country, mentioning King Leopold but once. Does this look like positive modernization to you?
Newt Gingrich is not an academic, just a very poor storyteller of fiction.
A father stares at the hands of his five year-old daughter, which were severed as a punishment for having harvested too little rubber.
…The vicious war that claimed the lives of more than 5 million people in Congo’s eastern flank might be officially over but the violence continues, particularly when it comes to women. During the worst years of the conflict, armed groups used sexual violence as a weapon but now rape perpetrated by civilians accounts for a large percentage of cases. Doctors and NGOs fear it has almost settled into something approaching a norm in a society ravaged by war.
A study published last year in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that 1,152 women are raped every day in Congo, a rate equal to 48 per hour. That rate is 26 times more than the previous estimate of 16,000 rapes reported in one year by the UN.
The highest frequency of rape was found in North Kivu, Fazili’s home province and the area most affected by the conflict, where 67 women per 1,000 had been raped at least once.
“The message is important and clear: rape in (Congo) has metastasised amid a climate of impunity, and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time,” said Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
There are no precise figures relating to the number of children born from these rapes, but they are thought to number in the thousands. Abortion is illegal in Congo, so the women have little choice but to carry the pregnancy to full term.
A young girl warily eyes a guerrilla fighter in the Lubero district, where a rebel group meets with U.N. personnel, Congo, 2008.
[Credit : James Nachtwey]
TRIGGER WARNING FOR VIOLENCE/RAPE AGAINST WOMEN/GIRLS
The world capital of rape is the eastern Congo. Militias consider it risky to engage in firefights with other gunmen, so instead they assault civilians. They discovered that the most cost-effective way to terrorize civilians. They discovered that the most cost-effective way to terrorize civilian populations is to conduct rapes of stunning brutality. Frequently the Congolese militias rape women with sticks or knives or bayonets, or else they fire their guns into the women’s vaginas.
Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn (2009), Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Oppression for Women Worldwide
Rafael Sanchez Fabres/LatinContent/Getty Images
Visual Representations of the Worst Places for Women
Using the following six criteria, 213 international gender experts ranked Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia as the most dangerous countries in the world for women:
- health threats
- sexual violence
- non-sexual violence
- cultural or religious beliefs
- lack of access to resources