February 21, 2018
KIRUMBA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — You might think you know the story of my place — insecurity, the disastrous consequences of war, mass displacements, unspeakable violence, wretched poverty — but you’d be wrong.
My village, Kirumba, is 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province. Since 1994, when insecurity crept in here, my place and my people have only made the news if the story was war.
There is, of course, violence here. I’m not denying that. And the end of this unnamed civil war has no end in sight.
But the story of Kirumba – and, really, the story of all of DRC – is not the story of violence.
Ours is a story of contrast, of opposites really. It is a story that requires you, my reader, to think hard about what you think you know and to challenge the assumptions of what you are sure is true. Because my place is at once a story of peaceful, rolling green hills and of gunshots.
I became a Global Press reporter in 2014 because I feel morally compelled to convey to the world a reliable account of the everyday life of the people in my community.
So let me be your guide. I’m someone who has been hurt countless times by the many evils that live here, but I am also someone who is deeply proud of this place.
Let me tell you the story of my Kirumba, of my DRC.
It’s not the story of people killing each other. If you look a little bit closer, you will see that in this community, we look out for one another. We feed each other. We educate each other. We heal each other.
Of course, we do these things for each other because government services are inadequate and because international aid often forgets this place. Violence, corruption and political chaos often claim the narrative. But on our own we find ways to move forward.
So you too, reader, need to listen for different voices. Hear the ones that aren’t just yelling about problems, but also those that are whispering solutions.
I think if you listen to me, you will hear a whole new story about DRC. And maybe, just maybe, you will come to see us as nation of people working hard to turn things around.
Ndayaho Sylvestre, GPJ, translated this column from French.