Humans of Bukavu

Humans of Bukavu is working hard to tell true stories of Congolese people, their trials and  
tribulations during and after the war and their everyday lives. Here's a chat with the brains behind the project.

What inspired the creation of Humans of Bukavu?
First, I was inspired by Brandon Stanton and his page, Humans of New York. Second, I created Humans of Bukavu to tell real stories of ordinary people traditional media do not tell just because obsessed to give the floor to famous people such as politicians to speak on behalf of people they ignore and with whom they do not share the same conditions. On Humans of Bukavu, my page, I give the floor to the survivors of rape, to the survivors of armed conflicts, to young people who were forced to enter the armed groups, to abandoned wives and children abused of witchcraft. I give the floor to the forgotten men, women and children of the D.R. Congo.

Can you talk about the current situation in Bukavu, and what is happening on ground there as we speak?
Social inequalities are the major problem in my country in general and in Bukavu in particular. Those social inequalities are the outcome of dictatorship thanks to which a generalized corruption has been possible. In my country, the population has no access to water, electricity and health care. Free- basic education does not exist in my country while 70% of the population are youth. As consequence, about 80% of the youths are not only unemployed but also unemployable. The unemployed and unemployable youths have become a threat to peace because for them to be able to buy a mobile phone or a bottle of beer, they have to join an armed group to access a guns. Thanks to their guns, they are able to attack cities, to destabilize remote areas and to control mining zones. When they attack villages, they rape women, execute their husbands, use some of their sons in the mining and recruit others to reinforce their troops.

The DR Congo as a nation has gone through a lot of violence and war, and there doesn't seem to be much respite in sight. What is being done to redress the consequences of the civil war and the presence of warlords?
Yes, I would say that the Congolese armed crisis did not get the right proportion of attention it deserved from the Congolese government as well as the international community.  Indeed, the Congolese armed crisis is the outcome of the lack of the rule of law thanks to which the fight against corruption and the fair distribution of public income are possible. That being said, every initiative to address the Congolese armed crisis should start by the construction of a rule of law. Unfortunately this hasn’t been done neither by the Congolese government nor the International Community and its NGOs. The UN peace keepers have been on the field for more than a decade and have failed to prevent systematic rape of women, killings, guns proliferation and the recruitment of young people for the reinforcement of the troops. As for the national army, it is not to be trusted as far as securing the population is concerned because it is poorly paid, less trained and less equipped.  There are even some reports accusing our army of rape, killing and looting in the zones it was supposed to secure.

Women in the DR Congo have faced a lot of sexual violence - could you talk about that? We haven't heard about any justice being done either. How can we work towards this goal?
Yes, rape has been used as a weapon of war in my country. Its power of destruction is so terrible that everything should be done to prevent that from happening once more gain on this planet.  The rape that has been used in my country hasn’t destroyed women only, it destroyed the entire community including its perpetrators.  The strategy that is being used to end this murderous crisis protects the perpetrators and exposes the victims. Indeed, instead of organizing trials against the crimes’ perpetrators, they are negotiated, integrated in the national army and their ranks are moved to high level. Yet the integration of the crimes’ perpetrators in the national army exempt them from trials that would heal the victims from their trauma.

Could you talk about the challenges that your work faces? 
The first challenge my work face is the censorship from the government. Indeed, to avoid the censorship, I have to work anonymously. The second challenge is the lack of support I need travel all over the entire country. 

Can you share a few stories / anecdotes from your work so far?
I think of Faustin. He is 23 years old now and he was enrolled when he was 13 years old. I think of Didier from Kichanga, he was enrolled when he was 12 years old. I also think of Mesha, he was enrolled when he was 12 years old. If they weren’t enrolled, they would have become either teachers, nurses, farmers or good parents. Their dreams have been stolen at a younger age and their hands and minds were used to destroy a community they were supposed to serve. It’s not their fault. It’s the fault of adults.