Civil war in Congo: The survivors speak out

14 Dec 2009

“Tied to a tree and blindfolded, I listened to my sister sobbing and screaming while armed men raped her,” describes Sandra, a survivor of the armed conflicts that violently ravaged the Congolese population since the 1990s.

Thousands of Congolese people have actually experienced these kinds of events, and their memories still remain vivid. Congolese women have lived through hell during the civil war in the 1990s, in Brazzaville as well as the surrounding villages.

Some of them recently spoke at a workshop held in Kinkala, in the Pool Region, one of the areas worst affected by the armed conflicts in Congo. This workshop, organized by UNDP, included crisis and recovery specialists, and featured seven women and young mothers affected by armed conflict.

The women shared their stories in order to raise awareness of the consequences of war with the international community and the Congolese population. Garcia, a mother of two, recounts: “I was only 13 years old when we fled the war. My mother died en route. My father and I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo but it was difficult to survive there. As soon as we had the chance to go back to Congo, we did not hesitate…when we reached the river port, I was separated from my father and it was the last time I saw my father.”

Amongst the participants of this workshop, facilitated by digital storyteller Amy Hills, were UNDP country offices from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic, where the population has experienced the same problems.

These testimonials, captured on audio and video, will be accompanied by the victims’ photos and drawings. Serving as communication aids, these materials will help to raise awareness on the consequences of armed conflict, and highlight the effectiveness of UNDP’s post-conflict responses, in the hopes of summoning more resources to help the Congolese population.

The women who gave their testimonials are all benefiting from a pilot project for the empowerment of women and girls associated with and affected by armed conflict, which is financed by UNDP. Thanks to this project, they are now receiving support within the cooperatives where they practice gardening or produce soap. These activities allow thousands of women to take control of their lives and provide for their families. In her statement, Garcia says that “thanks to the money from selling soap, I have enrolled my son in school.”

Jose Wabo, on behalf of UNDP’s Resident Representative in the Congo, gave each participant 100,000 FCFA (US$226.00) to support their revenue-generating activities. He also thanked them for “leaving everything they cherish behind for four days...to take part in this difficult exercise.”

Adrienne, one of the participants, said: “I’m going to buy some oil and flour in order to strengthen the fritter business I run with my mother. If you come back in two months, you won’t be disappointed by what we have done with the shop you have just given us.”

Florence Malanda, Head of the Kinkala Women’s Cooperative, said, “These testimonials will help to raise awareness with all Congolese people and populations around the world on the consequences of war. We hope that UNDP’s support will help other women who are suffering around the world.”

Contact Information

Sara Ahoui, Communications Specialist:
sara.ahoui@undp.org

In the Central African Republic:
Christian Ndotah, Communications Specialist
christian.ndotah@undp.org

In the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Clarisse Museme, Communications Specialist
clarisse.museme@undp.org

In Sudan:
Kayode Egbeleye, Communications Specialist
kayode.egbeleye@undp.org