You have met Cyprien, one of my dearest colleagues, before on The Road. "Citoyen Cyprien", as I jokingly call him, currently works with us in South Sudan.
You might remember his from this heart warming story from Aweill. What you might not have realized is that Cyprien was born and raised in East Kivu (DRC), which now is engulfed in violence once again.
I wrote to him today. I wanted to know how his extended family and friends in East Kivu, in the midst of the violence, were holding up.
I want to share his answer with you. It puts a face on the misery people in Congo endure. It puts a face on the avalanche of numbers poured over us.
When we speak of 2,000,000 people affected by the recent violence in Congo, we have to remember each of these 2 million people is an individual, with a life. With children, parents, friends, all affected by what we read about. We have to see the face of the violence to understand its impact.
Here is what Cyprien wrote:
I am sad. I have worked in Goma, Bukavu, Kisangani and Uvira. I know the places they are talking about on the radio, I personally know some of the people shown on the TV carrying whatever they could pick-up from their belongings. Fleeing for their lives.
I feel devastated. I am appalled and i am thinking of maybe taking some leave without pay and go back to Congo and see if I can be of help somehow, somewhere. I do not have yet a proper plan nor the channel or institution through which i would offer my voluntary services. But the shock-waves sent by news and images are too strong for me to resist.
If you are disturbed with the situation, you can imagine how much I am. Since 1993, I have shared almost half or my salary with my people in paying school fees for some Congolese kids whose families could not afford school fees.
Every month, I contributed to maternity fees for ladies who give birth to babies that are sometimes kept captive until mothers can afford the hospital bills. I paid dowries for young people who were willing to build families through marriage and who could not afford the dowry, or their clothing for the marriage ceremony. I have shared food and shelter with some of them during the previous conflicts.
Many of these people were strangers to me, but have become close friends because we have shared those tough times. I did do all of this because I love my country, and that gives me so much hope. Seeing it all collapse simply kills me.
I know how far what is happening can go. I have experienced it first hand. I understand how acute is the suffering of our people.
I know that the soldiers on the front lines are not paid their salaries. I know schools are closed and that kids, the future of Congo, are not attending classes. I know how many women, the biggest Congolese workforce, are being raped by the belligerent. I know our minerals are being looted and used to buy guns.
I know that DRC is under an arms embargo and that our government can not buy army equipment while the rebels are equipped with the latest military hardware. I also hear that some peace keepers are in many cases the trouble makers. I can not explain to myself why out of 17.000 peacekeepers available in Congo, only 800 are deployed in Goma.
I can go on and on. I am sad. I feel helpless.
Bottom picture courtesy Walter Astrada (AFP/Getty Images)
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