In recent years, the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DR Congo] made the headlines in The Guardian newspaper as the “Capital of rape”, “The worst place on earth for women“. From Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it became the “Art of Darkness”.
In the book Dancing to the Glory of the Monsters by Jason Stearns, the DR Congo is the place where the Great War of Africa took place. At the centre of this conflict of power and the conquest of wealth, rape is used as a weapon of war and statistics and testimonies have demonstrated that as many as 40 rapes occur daily.
The acceptance speech of Dr Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2018, gives a very good account of the situation: Women are the prime victims; women’s bodies became a battleground. Yet, they have the ability to continue to live and even raise a nation with the hope that one day things will get better. Nzambe ako sala (Lingala) Mungu ata fania (Swahili) – God will provide.
Since its independence the DR Congo has seen its population migrate to various parts of the world, thus creating a very huge diaspora across all continents. Women continue to play a key role in integrating the Congolese community in their host countries. They send money back home to relatives, while at the same time trying to keep their families together in their new countries; they continue to work hard in transmitting their values to their children, trying to keep them connected to their ‘roots’ so that they cannot be entirely lost. History has shown similar records where Congolese women raised armies to protect their population and territories.
The story of the Congolese women is one of strength, courage and resilience, deeply rooted within, transmitted from their upbringing and ancestry. It is crucial that these stories of strength and courage are honoured at a national level and made known to the world.