The following story is gruesome. And true. During the pillaging on the part of Congolese rebels of one of  countless villages, a woman is repeatedly raped while her children watch. With a crude machete one of her legs is cut off, roasted on a spit and given to her children to eat. When the woman’s eldest refuses, he is shot in the head. The others comply.

I would like you to pause here and re-read the above paragraph. A number of times. Because it takes a while for the brutality, the cowardice, the randomness and the cruelty of such acts to sink in – this is not a Stephen King’s book or a horror movie. This is somebody’s life. And it’s not an isolate episode either. I keep on writing about the Congo and its brave women because our lack of knowledge and acknowledgment is on a par with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia – and I am just referring to my lifetime. And because I feel guilty at my personal inability to help in any meaningful way.

If I go out on a very long limb, I can understand indiscriminate racial killing – ignorance and indoctrination will lead to that. But that gratuitous cruelty keeps on being perpetrated over the centuries, with nothing changing if not the means, doesn’t bode well for the human race. Our brains keep on developing, our knowledge keeps on expanding – man is changing the world at a brisk pace and yet our capability for evil has remained intact. Despite religion and history and lessons learned. How astonishing and depressing.

The woman in the story survived. And started over with a prosthetic leg and crutches – she even runs marathons to raise money to help other women. As if it weren’t enough to be poor and to have to take care of children, of elderly relatives, to provide food for the family, Congolese women are condemned to live in fear while we, in the guise of the UN peacekeepers, look the other way. Or behave lake Pontius Pilate.

To minimize our problems in the face of such tragedies and such bravery is a tad disingenuous, I know. We are all given our share – but are we really? While I don’t expect people to part with money they don’t have or to chuck their lives to relocate to far away lands to lend a hand, I do expect we all take a good look at what goes on around us and  to let those who represent us know that we care. And that we want them to care. It might not help in eradicating the basest human instincts but it can work to keep them in check.






Filed under Congo

2 responses to “THE FORGOTTEN ONES

  1. sue

    wahini – i am beside myself. where did you read this – she runs marathons – she is a hero – i know some other heroes who run marathons – maybe we can find her. love you.

    • Log on the NY Times website and check Nicholas Kristoff’s article in last Sunday Times Magazine. I think they do mention the name of the NGO she is affiliated with. The American woman who started it is out of Portland. If you are having trouble with it, let me know and I will track it down

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