Shining a Light on Darkenss
By Rege Behe
Kambale Musavuli knows what the heart of darkness looks like.
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he has become an eloquent witness to the atrocities in his homeland that has been torn apart by violence, rape, and genocide. But as Musavuli, a national spokesman for the Friends of the Congo points out,the tragedy in Africa is mostly unknown outside of the continent.
“I always wonder what will it take for the world to know that six million people have died,” he said during a TEDx lecture in Chicago in 2013.
Think about that: Six million people is more than the populations of 32 of the 50 US states. Six million people is more than the populations of Finland, Ireland, and Finland.
“I’m speaking to you as a brother and I’m also speaking to you as a human being,” Musavuli told the audience in Chicago. “And I hope … you will think of the Congolese as your brothers and sisters who need your support.”
According to the website World Without Genocide (http://worldwithoutgenocide.org), the DRC has been beset by violence since 1996, with Rwanda, Angola, Namibia, Chad, Libya and Sudan among the other nations involved. Currently, most of the fighting takes places in the provinces of North and South Kivu bordering Rwanda. Some of the conflict is political, notably the unrest caused by Hutu refugees of the Rwandan genocide who now live in the Congo. The region’s rich natural resources — including diamonds, copper and gold — also have factions vying for its control.
“Congo is a like a nightmare in heaven because it has so much blessing,” Musavuli said, noting how his idyllic childhood was regularly marred by violence.
Musavuli fled his homeland in 1998 when he was 17 to attend high school in North Carolina. He then attended North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, NC, where he studied civil engineering and became active in social causes. He worked with Greensboro area activists on issues of ranging from minimum wage to police brutality to improving the immigrant experience.
Most importantly, he started to speak about the unimaginable loss of life that occurs in the DRC.
“I don’t think people can comprehend that every single day, 1,500 Congolese people die,” Musavuli said. “Every two days, 9/11 happens in the Congo.”
Musavuli’s activism gradually started to garner attention, with appearances on ABC News, National Public Radio, and Radio France, and in the Canadian documentary “Surviving Progress” which included Martin Scorsese as an executive producer.
As a spokesman for his country, Musavuli asks everyone to consider the consequences of inaction.
“Twenty or thirty years from now, we are going to be asking an important question,” he told the TEDx audience. “… When you heard that six million people died in the Congo, what did you do about it? Because that’s the question that comes back when you read the book “Night”(by Elie Wiesel) about the Holocaust: How come we didn’t know that millions of people were dying in Europe and no one did something? You have to say `I heard the guy with the accent … and I was so moved by it I decided that until peace comes, I will do something.'”
To learn more about Kambale Musavuli: www.kambale.com/
To learn more about Friends of the Congo: www.friendsofthecongo.org/