Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thoughts on leaving Africa

Photo © Michael Deibert

I write now as I prepare to depart Kampala, Uganda in a few hours for my trip back to the United States. I traveled across Uganda yesterday during an 11 hour bus journey after interviewing several of the circa 2,000 refugees camped out in Kisoro, Uganda, who have fled fighting between the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai Mai militias in the Rutshuru territory of Congo's North Kivu province.

While in North Kivu, I spoke to many other displaced people in the sprawling camps throughout Masisi territory such as Bihito, Kilimani and Kalinga, and discovered the worrisome false peace that has descended on the province since the 2009 détente between the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) rebel group (now led by accused war criminal Bosco Ntaganda) and the government of Congo's president, Joseph Kabila. I was also able to witness first-hand the tight-lid military dictatorship that currently rules Rwanda even as its president, who is directly responsible for helping to cause so much suffering in Congo, continues to be fêted abroad.

As during my previous visits to Congo, I found so many stories to be told there, so many people who wanted to have their fate be known, not just as a footnote to the larger geopolitical struggles of the Great Lakes Region, but as the living, breathing testimony of those swept up by forces they did not seek out and which they could not control.

It is in the measure that it gives voice to the people such as those pictured above - the residents' council of Kalinga Camp - that this work I do is worth anything. And it is in gratitude for being able to hear and record their stories that I again thank my generous Kickstarter backers and the International Peace Research Association for their support of my upcoming book, Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (Zed Books). This research couldn't have been done without you.

Asante sana.

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