JWW in Congo: I want to act

by Naama Haviv

Yesterday, at the Goma border crossing, a local Congolese official told our translator that she wanted to go through our luggage. We knew it was a shakedown, but wanted to avoid any trouble. Isaiah talked to her to try to smooth things over, so that she would let it go. And she told him, “Isaiah, please, make me feel better now.”

Making her feel better cost $10 – which seemed a small price to pay to avoid letting a corrupt official get a closer look at our luggage. And yesterday I thought it was actually kind of funny, the language she used: “make me feel better now.”

But that was yesterday.

Today, I met a four-year-old rape victim. That sentence shouldn’t even exist.

And now I’m angry. At the self-serving official using her position to line her pockets, despite people all around her desperately trying to eke out a living in a country where their government has abandoned them. At the fact that not two minutes away from here there is a young man at the Heal Africa hospital with a cast up to his chest after being shot in Masisi last year – a wound that he could have just as easily sustained in an attack by the Congolese army as by another militia. And at the fact that there is a little girl, not two years older than my sweet little niece, whose body and soul has already been ripped apart.

And for what? So that Congolese officials, armed groups, foreign governments and anyone else that has the smallest chance of exerting any power can continue to feed off the people of Congo? So that they can continue to sap the resources of this land, drain the strength and character of its people, destroy the potential of this incredible country?

So that they can continue to “feel better?”

Today I met a four-year-old rape victim. And I don’t want to hear it anymore. I don’t want to listen to excuses about how overwhelming it is, how complex or seemingly insurmountable. I don’t want to reflect.

I want to act.

And I want you to act, too.