A heart-wrenching story of despair and hope. This week, Reporter takes us to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country torn apart by civil war. The second Congo War (1998-2003) and its aftermath are considered the deadliest conflicts since World War Two. An estimated 2.6 million people have been displaced.
Reporter travels to the northeast of the DRC, a remote region struggling to recover after years of depraved brutality inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Tens of thousands of lives have been ripped apart because of LRA atrocities.
We meet a young woman whom we will call “Melanie”. Released just a few months ago, she was only 13 when the LRA kidnapped her. She was held for nearly five years. Melanie’s tale is all too common. The LRA preys on young girls, kidnapping them. Many become sex slaves. Melanie became pregnant just a few months after she was caught – another child prisoner helped her give birth alone in the jungle.
Among this despair is the work undertaken by Sister Angelique. She has become key to helping the women who fled their homes and arrived in the small town of Dungu with nothing. Most of them come from remote villages, with little or no education, which makes finding work nearly impossible.
Sister Angelique has made the most of scant resources, providing them with literacy classes and other livelihood skills such as sewing, bread making, farming and basic accounting.
Once skills training is over, Sister Angelique’s association gives the women a small credit to buy raw materials and start a small business. They pay back the loan when they start making money.
Sister Angelique’s tireless quest to help others has not gone unnoticed: not only is she a local hero, she has also gained international recognition.
The United Nations Refugee agency which operates in the area has been so impressed by her work that it has just awarded her the Nansen Refugee Award. Thanks to this, her initiatives will receive much needed funding. Sister Angelique says her hope is to build a real orphanage and develop her teaching activities. With only the most rudimentary facilities at her school, the money will go a long way.
Peace, here, is fragile – and the scars run deep. The harrowing memories will never completely fade, but thanks to people like Sister Angelique, they are being replaced by the tentative dreams from a time before the LRA and with them a renewed sense of pride, dignity and hope.