Good books and films about mass atrocities in the Congo

In Congo, "a dead rat is worth more than the body of a woman".

April was Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the regions where we focus our awareness and advocacy efforts on an ongoing basis.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  In April we featured books and films associated with the genocides that have commemorative dates in April.  In May, the regions of our present day efforts are the focus.  This is the eighth post in this series, the mass atrocities in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Recommended Books:

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman, by Lisa Shannon
The book chronicles Shannon’s journey to the Congo to meet the women her run sponsored, and shares their incredible stories.  What begins as grassroots activism forces Shannon to confront herself and her life, and learn lessons of survival, fear, gratitude, and immense love from the women of Africa.

Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe, by Gerard Prunier
Prunier follows the 1996–2002 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo through many twists and turns.  Sparked by a Rwandan army incursion to clear out Hutu-dominated refugee camps on the border between the two countries, the conflict dragged in the armies of eight surrounding countries and an alphabet soup of Congolese guerrilla movements and tribal militias; millions died in the fighting and attendant massacres, starvation and disease.

All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo, by Bryan Mealer *favorite
Mealer chronicles the four years he spent covering the fighting and genocide in Congo.  In 1996,  Mealer came to the troubled nation as a freelance writer with little knowledge of ethnic loyalties, looking for a translator to help him navigate the complexities of conflict.

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, by Jason Stearns
Stearns vividly tells the story of this misunderstood conflict through the experiences of those who engineered and perpetrated it. He depicts village pastors who survived massacres, the child soldier assassin of President Kabila, a female Hutu activist who relives the hunting and methodical extermination of fellow refugees, and key architects of the war that became as great a disaster as–and was a direct consequence of–the genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of  Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo, by Michela Wrong
For the past few decades, the Congo, one of Africa’s richest countries in natural resources, has been in an economic decline that has resulted in violence and lawlessness.  Wrong, a British journalist who spent six years covering Africa as a reporter for European news agencies, skillfully balances history with nuanced reportage.

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Adam Hochschild  * favorite
King Leopold of Belgium did not much care for his native land or his subjects.  He searched the globe to find a colony for Belgium.  He eventually found what would become the Belgian Congo, Leopold set about establishing a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people.

The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa, by Rene Lemarchand
This book provides a thorough exploration of the contemporary crises in the region.  By focusing on the historical and social forces behind the cycles of bloodshed in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo-Kinshasa, it challenges much of the conventional wisdom about the roots of civil strife in former Belgian Africa.

Recommended Films:

Lumo – One Young Woman’s Struggle to Heal in a Nation Beset By War
Recently engaged to a young man from her village, 20 year-old Lumo Sinai crossed paths with marauding soldiers who brutally attacked her.  Rejected by her fiancé and cast aside by her family, Lumo found her way to the one place that may save her: a hospital for rape survivors set on the border with Rwanda.

Lumumba *favorite
The true story of the rise to power and brutal assassination of the formerly vilified and later redeemed leader of the independent Congo, Patrice Lumumba.  Using newly discovered historical evidence,  Raoul Peck renders an emotional and tautly woven account of the mail clerk and beer salesman with a flair for oratory and an uncompromising belief in the capacity of his homeland.

Pushing the Elephant
In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo lost her family and home to the violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo.  She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation.  Now, Rose is confronted with teaching one of her most recalcitrant students how to forgive—the daughter who remained behind.

The Greatest Silence *favorite
In 2006, Emmy Award winning producer/director Lisa F. Jackson spent the year in the war zones of eastern DRC.  She documented the tragic situation women and girls are forced to deal with as they stand in the middle of a country’s conflict they did not create, and cannot control.

The Reporter *favorite
Congo is a country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.  To date, 5.4 million people have been killed in Congo over the last decade. The core reason—instability.  This is Kristof’s charge—to put Congo on the international agenda.

Background on mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo:  Civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo remain victims of mass killings, severe torture and widespread rape at the hands of numerous armed groups operating in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale.  Conflict in the DR Congo has resulted in an estimated 5.4 million civilian deaths since 1996.  In the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, civilians are targeted by the rebel Forces Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR). During its attacks, the FDLR burns villages and killed innocent residents. Human Rights Watch estimates that these attacks have killed more than 1,000 civilians since January 2009 . The Congolese Army, known as the FARDC predates on civilians throughout the country, engaging in looting and gender based violence against civilians that it should be protecting. In the Haut-Uele and Bas-Uele regions of Orientale province, more than 1,400 civilians have been killed in massacres and attacks committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony since Christmas of 2008, when the LRA established itself as one of the largest threats to civilians in the DR Congo. While the DR Congo features the world’s second-largest peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, the presence of these peacekeepers have yet to bring peace to an area that has been embroiled in conflict since 1996.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition (link)

Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

2 Responses to Good books and films about mass atrocities in the Congo

  1. Pingback: Good books and films about genocide and mass atrocities (all entries) « Orange County for Darfur Blog

  2. Pingback: April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month « Orange County for Darfur Blog

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