Congo Week: Day Three
Guest Post from:
This week – October 17 – 23 – Friends of the Congo is running its third Congo Week – Breaking the Silence – in a bid to raise awareness of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and help end the violence. All week I will be featuring blog posts related to the DRC from activists, academics and Congolese citizens.
Today – Congolese activist Patricia Sula talks about cross-generational hopes for positive change in the DRC. The views are her own. Global Citizen has done only mild editing for length and clarity.
“Never forget the blood running through you is Congolese. Nothing else.” This is something I heard my mother say a thousand times. Nowadays when she starts saying it, I just finish her sentence; “Yes, Mom I know I know I’m Congolese.”
I grew up in the United States but was born in the heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I don’t remember Congo but I’ve been there a thousand times. As a child I would spend hours at my father’s feet. For bedtime stories he told tales of the life he lived in the DRC. He told me how rich our culture was and how beautiful the land was, “A paradise on earth” he would say. As an adult today, I clearly see the sadness in my father’s eyes reflect in my own, but his patriotism is still there every time we discuss our native land, a land that has known a war since 1996.
But really…Who cares about Africa? Much less, who cares about the Congo? I have more important things to think about. Like my car that I need to replace. I’ve been eyeing this beautiful white 2008 Saturn that would be perfect. Or the fifty-two inch black flat screen I’ve been dreaming about since I saw it at Best Buy? Yeah, that needs to find its way to my living room quickly. With all that to consider, it’s not hard to see that caring about the Congo can indeed be a difficult task.
Only being twenty-two and living the good life in America has made me ask myself, why I should care about a fourteen year war that has killed six million people? That is more than the whole population of the state of Maryland. But I feel as if I have more personal and immediate responsibilities as an adult.
I’m no longer Congolese. I am an American. Let the Congolese people I left years ago help themselves. The reasons behind rampant corruption in the Congolese government are in fact Congolese problems. Local politicians are multimillionaire despite the fact that eighty percent of the population is living on less than thirty cents a day.
I don’t want it to affect me, but it does.
I try to look away from the broken hearted orphans telling their stories childhoods stolen as they witnessed their parents’ murders. I try to ignore the embittered tears that fall from a nine year old boy’s eyes when he recalls how he was unable to protect his brother from the Mai Mai bullets.
I’ve tried to ignore it all. I’ve tried. And now I have quit trying.
I used to overlook the barbarity inflicted upon my people. I remained silent while thousands died and hundreds committed suicide. I have since learned my silence didn’t help. I have decided to not look away anymore from the grief of millions.
You see there’s an inner conflict that I can no longer ignore. An ongoing war that has been more deadly than World War II is difficult to overlook — especially since my family and I were victims of Congo’s government corruption. As political refugees, my family was miraculously able to come to the United States with my father who was imprisoned many times for being outspoken of the inhumane corrupt government. My family and I were constantly on the move. In fear of the secret police, we never stayed in one location for too long. My father was so passionate about liberating Congo, that he named his newborn (me) after the man he believed in, the great hero Patrice Lumumba. I was only a baby, but the eternal memories within my family of suffering, extreme hunger, and feelings of helplessness still remain.
That is why I can’t ignore what is happening in my country – why I must speak up.. Though I have been in the United States for twenty years, the Congo is still my home. No matter the influence of the United States had on me, I remain a Congolese. I used to feel so helpless to hear of a war that has slaughtered more mothers, brothers, and innocent children, than the massacres in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Rwanda combined. I no longer feel helpless. I’m taking a stand.
I will no longer going to allow my innocent sisters and brothers to silently fall. Congo is not someone else’s problem but it is mine and yours. It is my duty as a human being to speak for those that have been silenced. So I am now speaking.
During this past Congolese Independence celebration on June 30th, I heard a young man read a poem about a Congolese woman screaming for help, “Mama, I hear your screams as they beat your child. Mama I hear your cries as they rape you. Mama I just want you to know even though I’m not there with you, I’m here fighting for you.”
As the world seems to be so silent, I want the Congolese people to know even though I’m not physically there, I’m fighting for them across the ocean. They are not alone in their struggle.
My father once young and passionate, with age has slowed down. Our leaders of today are passing and a new generation of leaders will soon be needed. It is now time for my generation to pick up the torch and continue the fight for the liberation of Congo.
My father once confidently told me, “Congo will one day be liberated,” as he said this he looked off into the distance. As if looking past me into a future that hasn’t yet arrived, but surely will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patricia Sula is a Congolese American activist in the Washington Dc area. She is currently a student at Montgomery College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org