More people were killed in a recent civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo than in conflicts in Vietnam, Syria, Iraq and Korea combined. The African country may be sliding back in to war, but one man is hoping a message of peace can overcome violence. WARNING: this film contains distressing images.
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It’s one of the deadliest countries on the planet – wracked for decades by civil war, rape, murder, and genocide. Now the Democratic Republic of Congo is in the midst of another crisis and potentially another civil war.
But one group of young people is taking a stand – not with weapons but with a message of peace. Fred Bauma risks his life every day campaigning for peace in the DRC, a country that has grown used to killing.
Between 1998 and 2003 a brutal civil war, and the starvation and disease that came with it, tore the country apart, killing between one and five million people. That makes it one of the single most deadliest conflicts since 1945.
Sitting on vast mineral wealth and situated at the heart of the continent, the DRC could be the crossroads of Africa – if it were peaceful and functional. But the country remains extremely undeveloped. Only one person in seven earns more than $1.25 a day. Life expectancy is just 63 years.
The President Joseph Kabila is standing down after almost 20 years and a battle for who succeeds him is underway. The election due to be held in December will undoubtedly be an unfair fight. At worst, it can plunge the country back to Civil War. The favourite to replace Mr. Kabila could be as bad for the country as the current dictator.
Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is from the same party as Mr Kabila and is seen as a potential puppet for the president. The two best known opposition figures are Moïse Katumbi, a charismatic former governor, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice president and rebel leader who this year was acquitted of war crimes. But both candidates have been excluded from the race. Mr. Bauma is a member of Lucha, a youth group that does not engage in politics but protests against the government’s failure to provide services. In the face of mounting violence, Lucha’s peaceful protests provide an alternative to the bloodshed that has plagued the country for decades.
Fred’s fears are justified. One of his colleagues Luc Nkulula was burnt alive in a house fire that was allegedly started by government forces.
If Congo could find stability then the whole of Africa would benefit however it is unlikely that a presidential election will bring about real change. It is a risky moment for this fragile country. In almost 60 years since independence Congo has never had a president peacefully step down. There’s a real chance that the country could fall back into civil war.
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