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The Democratic Republic of Congo carries the tragic label of the deadliest war in the world today. An estimated four million people have died since 1998.
Different militia groups and government forces battle it out on a daily basis in the east of the country for control of the mineral rich areas where they can exploit Gold, Coltan, Cassiterite and Diamonds. There are 18 major natural resources in DRC all of which at some stage have proved to be a curse on the people of DRC.
Government troops and UN soldiers have worked over the past months to try to expel the Militia forces from their strongholds. This has led to the deaths of thousands and the displacement of tens of thousands. Families fee from their burnt villages to areas where they hope they can rest and seek sanctuary from the fighting.
The funeral of Mapenzi Boloma (10 months) who died of diarrhoea and vomiting a few days after arriving in theGety camp. She was one of 18 people who died on this day, just before the historic elections in DRC.
Opangi Molati (5) in Tchomia camp after being displaced in recent fighting in the region. There are 30,000 displaced people living in this area with limited supplies and virtually no international help.
A religious service in the early morning in the Gety camp for the displaced.
The mother of Androsi Lea (47) from Adhegi mourns the death of her daughter. She now must care for her three children but at the age of 80 she has little chance of survival after losing everything while fleeing the fighting. The father of the three children, aged 14, 7 and 4, was killed in the fighting in 2003.
One hundred years of darkness
Philip Jones-Griffiths, London, 17/04/06
Marcus Bleasdale’s disturbing photos eloquently present the latest chapter in the Congo’s catalogue of tragedies.
The Congo has always epitomised man’s inhumanity to man. King Leopold II of Belgium, responsible for perhaps as many as ten million dead during his commercial exploitation in the late 1800s, employed a very childish Christian solution to those natives not collecting their quota of rubber – he had their hands cut off. Many victims of the mutilations were photographed, and as Mark Twain remarked in 1905 while discussing the Congo reform movement’s use of photographs, “thank God for the camera, for the testimony of the light itself, which no mere man can contradict.” Today it is the multinational corporations that are doing the looting and Marcus continues in that great tradition of documenting their misdeeds for the historical record.
The ensuing questions that followed the projection centred on the task of alerting public opinion – a real problem since most of our publications are intent on embracing inanities. Readers are being persuaded to reject information for titillation. As Marcus has discovered, it is voluntary agencies that are providing the funding to enable the present crimes to be recorded. Perhaps this is the future for photojournalism – images for activists and perhaps a book for future generations.
One Hundred Years of Darkness:
A Photographic Journey into the Heart of Congo
Jon Swain (Foreword) and Marcus Bleasdale (Photographer)
List Price: £25.95
Members’ price: Signed copy £20