Katanga: The forgotten province of DR Congo

But bad roads and ongoing violence makes it hard for aid workers to reach people in remote areas in Katanga province.

It’s always hard reporting on an issue that should be getting more international attention but for some reason isn’t.

Mention the Democratic Republic of Congo to people and they think of Goma, M23, North and South Kivu and the capital Kinshasa.

Mention Katanga province in the south and many people have no idea what I am talking about and where it is. If they have heard of the province they don’t associate it with problems like elsewhere in the DRC.

So how do you even begin telling the story when you only have a few minutes in a news bulletin to do so?

Some of the issues are Mayi Mayi Kata Katanga rebels, who say they are fighting to break away from the DRC and govern themselves. At the heart of the battle are huge mineral reserves of copper and cobalt. Ultimately all government officials – and whoever is backing the armed movement – want power and control of the wealth.

Caught in the middle are the civilians who are mostly poor villagers. When rebels and soldiers fight their homes get burnt down, women and girls are raped, children are abducted. It can be a living hell for someone caught up in the fighting.

People I spoke to say they feel they have been forgotten by their government and the international community. But bad roads and ongoing violence makes it sometimes hard for aid workers to reach people in remote areas. They are also not getting enough media attention or political will.

The main focus in the DRC in some circles seems to be M23 rebels in the east possibly regrouping, not the Mayi Mayi in the south seemingly growing in numbers and attacking more towns and villages. The capital of Katanga province Lubumbashi, was attacked by rebels late last year. The story was hardly reported by the international media.

So how to tell the world the unreported stories? It’s not easy I can tell you that.

We try to film what we can to help highlight the issues – without getting ourselves killed. This isn’t my first, nor will it be my last. So as we finish filming one story and start working on the next, we wonder how we are going to manage another day of events happening happen behind the scenes.

The way we all say a quiet prayer before an old plane we are flying in takes off or lands. The way our hearts race when you are in the Congo bush and you hear something or someone moving in the long thick grass. The way you try to act tough when you approach a checkpoint outside the city, not sure if you will come across soldiers or rebels. The way the smell of a dead human body just hits you, and takes you back to past experiences you’d rather forget but somehow never can. The guilt you feel when you’ve interviewed someone desperate and terrified knowing there is nothing more you can do to help them except tell their story. Knowing that if their village is attacked again, they might be killed.

But we keep going, even when we think no one really cares about the part of the world you are reporting from. We keep going, hopefully the people of Katanga will get some much needed attention. And humanitarian aid too.

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