Canada finally dusts off its blue helmet: Editorial | Toronto Star
Canada is ready to assume its rightful role as a nation dedicated to UN peacekeeping following a welcome new commitment of troops and money.

Where Canada’s troops and resources are ultimately deployed remains to be seen, but an African location seems likely. Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic are all possible candidates. […]

when canada’s pre-eminent “left-wing” newspaper gets real excited to send some troops to literally anywhere who cares what country just dust off those guns and start a-blazin’!

(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. 

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.

Quick Cryptid Snippet: Congo Fanged Toad

In 1945, the zoological journal by the name of ‘Copeia’ published an article by Arthur Loveridge, a herpetologist at Harvard University. In this article, Loveridge described the story of an attack on a police officer in Tapili, Niangara (in the Democratic Republic of Congo) by what many believe to be a new species of toad.

In the article, it was said that as the officer was walking alongside a small pool of water in the late evening, an overly large toad leaped from the water, bit the man on his leg, and refused to let go. Yes, you read that sentence right, the mystery toad attacked the man and bit into his leg. As the man began to obviously panic, the toad continued to bite harder. In an attempt to remove the creature from his leg, the officer grabbed the club that he carried on him at all times and started to beat the toad with it. Eventually the amphibian loosened its grip on the man’s leg and the creature fell to the ground dead. Standing there in shock at what had just happened, the officer scooped up the body of the “monster” toad and brought it back to the village with him.

When the man returned to the town, he made sure to deliver the body of the toad to a man by the name of C. Caseleyr, the Administrator of the Niangara Territory. After retelling the story of what he had just experienced, the officer showed off the bloody puncture wounds in his leg which appeared to have been made by sharp fanged teeth and presented the lifeless body of the beast. Knowing without a doubt that the man before him was not lying, Mr. Caseleyr made quick work of examining the body of the dead amphibian.

The body of the toad was described as being very large and also very fat. The back legs of the toad were quite muscular and the overall shape of the amphibian was completely unlike that of other frogs and toads in the area. The skin was a mix of grey and green bumps and the entire creature appeared to lack any noticeable color except for the stomach which stood out with a bright orange patch. When Mr. Caseleyr opened the toads mouth, he unexpectedly discovered four large fanged teeth (much like those of sharp canine teeth) and a long forked tongue like that of a snake. When the examination was over, the curious locals in the area concluded that the dead creature before them was completely new and almost certainly one of a kind.

Word soon spread out of Niangara, across the world, and into the ears of excited researchers hoping for a chance to further study the famous Congo Fanged Toad. But as with all cryptid evidence, the body of the toad was haphazardly packed away and lost as time went on. Many claim that it is not impossible for a giant (monster) toad to remain undetected in the Congo region, and there are some researchers who still hold out hope that a new species of giant frog or toad (that would rival the Goliath Frog) may one day be discovered. But until that day comes, take caution when walking near darkened shallow pools and ponds, or you may end up in a situation where you may literally need to beat a toad to death in order to keep one of your limbs.

-The Pine Barrens Institute


This Guy Went to Earth’s Most Remote Places So You Don’t Have To

Klaus Thymann obviously loves adventure. In just 24 days, Thymann dove 100 feet into a sinkhole, trekked one of two glaciers abutting a rainforest, and peered over the edge of an active volcano.

Thymann traveled thousands of miles around the world to visit three unusual and remote ecosystems for Timezone. “This planet still holds diverse environments that are full of surprises,” he says.

He spent weeks researching locations before choosing the Cenote Angelita sinkhole in the Yukatan, Mexico, Fox Glacier in New Zealand, and Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He set off in January, 2015, with a Hasselblad HD5 and HD4 and a Carl Zeiss lens.

(Continue Reading)
Refugee judoka Popole Misenga out of Olympics but thrilled all the same
Popole Misenga made it into the last 16 in the men’s 90kg division, where he was beaten by the current world number one
By Bryan Armen Graham

For nearly 20 seconds, Popole Misenga refused to submit as he struggled to wrestle free from the devastating hold that was slowly hyperextending his elbow during Wednesday’s judo competition. Around him, the crowd in the nearly full Carioca Arena 2 swelled. How much agony could he withstand?

Turns out plenty. The 24-year-old freed himself from the armbar and, with eight seconds left, hurled India’s Avtar Singh to the mat with a seoi-nage, or shoulder throw, for a yuko to seal an opening-round victory that meant something more.

Misenga and his fellow judoka Yolande Mabika from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are two of 10 athletes competing for the first Olympic refugee team, a group that includes two Syrian swimmers, five South Sudanese runners and an Ethiopian marathon runner – athletes who would otherwise find themselves without a country and excluded from the Games.

Misenga and Makiba say they endured severe mistreatment by their coaches while competing for DRC’s national team. They recall being denied food for days on end and locked into a cell after failing to win competition medals. When they travelled to Brazil for the world judo championships three years ago, the pair decided to flee the team hotel and take their chances on the streets of Rio – without passports, money or food – and to seek asylum.

When the International Olympic Committee announced the establishment of a refugee team as a way to shine a light on the worldwide refugee crisis, Misenga and Makiba were chosen. The team’s emotional march into Maracanã stadium at the end of Friday’s opening ceremony ahead of the hosts Brazil represented one of the indelible moments of Rio 2016.

Misenga’s win on Wednesday took him into the last 16 of the men’s 90kg division, where he faced the world number one, Gwak Dong-han of South Korea. Amid chants of “Po-po-le! Po-po-le!” from the crowd, Misenga lost by ippon on a sliding lapel strangle in the final minute. He said afterwards that he was proud to last more than four minutes against the reigning world champion and vowed to return to the Games to improve on his ninth-place finish.

“It’s an honour to be in the Olympics. I fought with a champion,” said Misenga, who has not seen his family for 15 years but was confident they were watching back in DRC. “I’m just really happy to be here because everybody understands and knows about the refugee team, knows the refugee story. People around the world, they’re all watching this competition right now.”

Yolande Bukasa Mabika, left, against Linda Bolder from Israel compete in the women’s judo 70 kg elimination rounds. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Mabika was forced to tap out of her opening round match in the women’s 70kg division on Wednesday after Israel’s Linda Bolder put her in a triangle choke, but the 28-year-old was positively thrilled with her moment on the Olympic stage.

“I felt perfect,” she said. “I entered the stadium to fight and I felt a lot of people calling me, encouraging me. I felt at home.

“I feel that many people liked me. I’m representing many nations and my victory is a victory for all refugees in the world. I lost, but Popole won his bout and so I am so happy. As we are a team, a team of many nations that are together.

“When I’m older, people will see my name in the books about Rio 2016 Olympic Games. My name, Yolande Bukasa, entered history”.

Afterwards, Geraldo Bernardes, the four-time Olympic coach for the Brazilian national team who trains both judokas, beamed with pride.

“They only had four months to train, the others had four years,” he said. “It was already the medal for me, the medal of my heart.”

In DR Congo today, most Congolese people wear Western clothing, such as jeans and t-shirts. Some Congolese youth are influenced by European and American styles. A few young men spend all of their money on name-brand clothing from abroad, and most of them live in very unsanitary conditions. This is mainly seen in Kinshasa men, who believe that if they dress well, they will be more suitable for political, social, and economic gain. More rural people, however, wear brightly colored scarves and wraps. The women wear head scarves and carry children on their back. Most rural and urban Congolese people go without shoes, which reflects the inner and outward poverty of the country.

Stupid, stupid people.

Giraffes Are Being Killed for Their Tails

Documentary filmmaker David Hamlin recalls the adrenalin rush when he was flying over the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Garamba National Park in late June and spotted three giraffes standing in a small clearing. “Seeing these giraffes from the air was really exciting,” says Hamlin, who was on assignment for National Geographic. “Seeing them anywhere is really exciting.”

But Hamlin’s exhilaration at seeing and photographing the giraffes didn’t last long. Twelve hours later rangers reported hearing gunshots, and they later discovered three bullet-riddled giraffe carcasses rotting in the sun. “It was horrible for me and the team,” Hamlin says—”the crushing realization that most likely it was these guys, the ones we’d seen.”

Congolese usually kill the giraffes for one body part: their tails, considered a status symbol in some communities. Meanwhile men from neighboring South Sudan target the giraffes for their meat to feed impoverished villagers. But the massive bodies (giraffes can grow to 18 feet and weigh up to 3,000 pounds) of the three giraffes were intact—only the ends of their tails were missing.