(46# The Democratic Republic of Congo)  Rose Mapendo: Why she kicks ass

  • She is human rights activist, who founded Mapendo New Horizons to help vulnerable survivors of physical, psychological, and social trauma caused by decades of extreme violence have easy access to health care and to give them hope. In addition, the Mapendo International organization (whose objective is, among others, to assist the Congolese people to emigrate to United States, for that them can escape of the war in their countries of origin) was name in her honor.
  • She won The winner of the United Nations’ 2009 Humanitarian of the Year, and along with her role as an international spokeswoman and peace activist, Rose gathers money from resettled refugees in the U.S. and takes it to Africa to distribute among families left behind and those in need. 
  • Volvo recently recognized Rose with the Volvo for Life Hero Award, for which she was nominated by actress Susan Sarandon. Sarandon, who sits on Mapendo International’s advisory board, also chose Rose as her personal hero for a CNN special about celebrities and their heroes.
  • Rose Mapendo is the subject of the gripping documentary Pushing the Elephant which airs March 29, 2011 on Independent Lens. This told  the story of the separation between her and Nangabire (her daughter) during the Congolese genocide. The film tries to convey to people the importance of the fight against violence and for your rights.
  • She was held captive in a military brigade-turned-death camp from 1998 to 2000, and was forced to watch helplessly as her husband was beaten ruthlessly, and with a gun pointed at her temple she desperately clung to her teenage daughter – one of seven children she had with her at the time – fighting and pleading with her captors not to take her as their sex slave. She struggled in darkness and silence as she birthed twins on the waste-covered concrete floor of her cell, afraid of what the guards would do if they heard her cries.  For 16 months, she fought for her family’s survival as they suffered torture, sickness and starvation, simply for being Tutsi, an ethnic group victimized by genocide in Central Africa. 
  • Even though it seemed unthinkable, Rose named her twins in honor of the commander of the death camp. In Congolese culture, having a child named after you is an incredible honor. Having twins named after you is even more extraordinary. “For a mother to have twins is very special,” Rose says. “If a woman has twins, no one can be mad at her.” When the commander’s wife learned of the babies names, she came to the prison and brought Rose tea, bread and some clothes. A familial connection had been created between Rose’s family and the commander, so he could no longer accept that they would die in his brigade. Instead, he had all of the 32 remaining prisoners transferred to a safe haven in Kinshasa, where it would be up to the president to decide if they were to be killed. “After eight months, they say, ‘You are free. Now you are mother of commanders.’” It was her positive attitude and the ability to forgive those who killed her husband and imprisoned her family that helped Rose keep her children and the other prisoners alive.
  • She has publicly sharing her story of her journey from from listless prisoner to tireless advocate for peace and refugees in Africa, in hope that others will listen to and remember her story – not for her, but for all the refugees who still need protection.
  • Since 2005, Rose has been sharing her story across the nation and world, including Africa, addressing the plight of refugees and advocating for their protection. She has spoken at the White House next to former First Lady Laura Bush, at a UN refugee conference in Geneva and alongside celebrities like Ben Affleck and Anderson Cooper at engagements across the U.S. Her hope is to raise awareness and inspire action. She was also was elected by the refugee community in the U.S. as the spokeswoman for peace talks in the Congo. 

Stranded in Canton – Documenting the life of a Congolese expat in China

The increased presence of China across the African continent in recent years is pretty old news. Commentators have argued until they’re blue in the face about anything from its role in improving infrastructure, to concerns over illegal land deals, to the western mainstream media’s Sino-phobic portrayal of the Eastern powerhouse’s new found influence in Africa.

Stranded in Canton comes at the issue from a fresh angle by following the story of Lebrun - Congolese farmer and the film’s protagonist – and his journey to Guangzhou, China, in pursuit of a business opportunity. Premiering at Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year, I caught a screening this week at London’s Open City Documentary Festival.

What’s interesting about the film is that some would not really classify it as a documentary. It watches like a fictional portrayal and the director has been clear that while characters ‘played themselves’, scenarios were staged - at points emulating a sort of Nollywood style structured-reality show…set in China.

It is definitely this new take on the Sino-African cultural jam that makes the film so engaging. During the Q&A at Open City Docs, director Måns Månsson said he sees the film as almost futuristic – a world in which the West is unusually absent, as African, Arab and Chinese characters build relationships and conduct business between themselves, however exploitative these exchanges may be.

Take the reason for Lebrun’s trip, and film’s premise. Lebrun is there to follow up on a deal he made with a Chinese manufacturer for an order of “Votez Kabila” t-shirts ahead of the 2001 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With the delivery delayed until after the elections, Lebrun is left with a large stock of irrelevant t-shirts he can’t sell and no cash to return home.

His attempts to solve this problem frame the film’s narrative, with both comedic and tragic consequences. A personal favourite is Lebrun suggesting that he rely on the prospect of the DRC constitution changing so Kabila can run for a third term, meaning he could then sell the t-shirts at the next election. The idea is unsurprisingly met with contempt from his love interest, Sylvie - a Cameroonian businesswoman making her way considerably more successfully in Canton.

According to Månsson, this is part of a growing business trend in Guangzhou of selling merchandise for political campaigns to African countries. The irony of China profiting from neoliberal democratic projects in Africa is seriously juicy food for thought. Still, this film doesn’t take on all these issues in any depth – and nor does it pretend to. What it does do is provide the viewer with a quick glance into this unknown world, and leaves you wanting more. Check it out.

Alice McCool is an anti-corruption campaigner and masters student at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. You can follow her at @McCoolingtons. Views expressed on here and on there are personal.


On this day in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence, after more than 50 years of occupation.

face2faceafrica Africa reports:

“The Congo’s colonization happened under the rule of King Leopold II (pictured above) who was able to dupe the European community in to believing that his efforts of exploration in the region were humanitarian. Using clandestine methods, the king was able to claim much of the Congo Basin for himself and renamed the area the "Congo Free State.” Under Leopold’s rule, natives were brutally mistreated and kidnapped to be slaves by Arab-Swahili traders.

“Rubber was a chief export of the nation, and the Belgians ran workers in to the ground to increase production of the plants and ensuing product.

"The Public Force (or Force Publique) (pictured) was called in to enforce the production of rubber, cutting the limbs off workers to incite fear and harder work. On top of the Public Force’s tactics, millions of natives died due to disease and exploitation.”

Read the rest here:


Mandombe or Mandombé is a script that was invented by Wabeladio Payi from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1978 . It’s intended for writing the four national languages of the D.R.Congo; Swahili, Lingala, Tshiluba and Kikongo. The script it taught in Kimbanguist church schools in the Republic of Congo, D.R. Congo and Angola.  [read more]

Table by Andrij Rovenchak

The Lord’s prayer in Swahili

Government support for the arts has been limited to those supporting the ruling political party, so many artists also farm, trade, or use the black market to receive their income. Informal groups of artists provide moral support to artisans to display their art in public. In literature, most Congolese focus on issues of identity, compared to the colonial past. They also focus on topics such as differences between ethnic groups and conflicts between newly adopted and old customs. Some famous authors, poets, and playwrights include Elebe ma Ekonzo, Valerin Mutombo-Diba, Paul Lomami-Tshibamba, Lisembe Elebe, and Mwilambwe Kibawa. The Ingot Cross was introduced by the Portuguese in the late fifteenth century, and is still used as a religious and wealth symbol today. They’re cast from copper, which has inspired a new artistic form in the city of Katanga. Portraits are sketched into a copper sheet, then covered in clay for unique colors and textures. In most large towns and cities, people can buy hand-crafted art. Popular wares are clothing and mats, made from raffia palm tree. Having won their independence 51 years ago, postindependence paintings give a voice to the Congolese. In the performing arts, Kwasa-kwasa, which is a popular dance music, can be heard in most places in DR Congo. It originated in Kinshasa, which is thought to be the African music capital. Popular genres of music are Congo jazz and soukous, or guitar music. Traditional instruments like the piano are used to accompany singers and dancers, when the topic of their piece is about love, gender roles, even political topics. The Mbuti people are known for their vocal style, in which many people sing very different melodies at the same time. In DR Congo, most arts are learned from family members or village elders.


“Conservation is war.”

180 wildlife rangers have lost their lives protecting Virunga National Park in The Democratic Republic of Congo. This is their story.

I watched this engrossing, award-winning, Netflix documentary, “Virunga”,  last weekend. Intense, yes. The rangers set out to protect the park against corrupt government officials, rebels, civil war, and a UK-based oil company.

It’s worth the 2 hours of your life it takes to watch it.


Happy Independence day to the Democratic Republic of Congo

Former names of the Congo in chronological order: Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville) and Republic of Zaïre

The Congo gained independence from Belgium on the 30th June 1960

I am Walé Respect Me / Forever Walé

Among the Ekonda Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the most important moment in the life of a woman is Ekonda the birth of her first child. The young mother, called Walé (“primiparous lactating mother”), returns to her parents to stay recluse between two and five years.The ritual of Wales is a wonderful tribute to motherhood, fertility and femininity.

© Patrick Willocq

The Democratic Republic of Congo is considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$24 trillion. The Congo has 70% - 80%  of the world’s coltan, 1/3 of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a 1/10 of its copper.

But in 2013, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranked D.R. Congo 186 out of 187. Due to corruption and war (that has killed over 6 million people) that is perpetuated through the sourcing of conflict minerals it is one of the poorest in the world. Countries like China, US, India, France, Saudi Arabia etc (the list is endless) continue to support the sourcing of conflict minerals which are used in; hearing aids and pacemakers, to airbags, GPS, ignition systems and anti-lock braking systems in automobiles, through to laptop computers, mobile phones, video game consoles, video cameras and digital cameras, electric cars and many more Companies such as Canon, Nikon, Sharp, Nintendo and HTC are known for using high amounts of conflict minerals in their products. 


Congo Living in Petite Noir’s New Video for Single “Down”.

Months ahead of the September release of Petite Noir’s debut album La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful, the artist, Yannick Ilunga, recently visited Lubumbashi in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo (he’s half Angolan too) where he shot this “day in the life of”-themed video. 

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