Editor’s Note: Wendy Crompton is a law student and intern at the U.S. State Department, where she recently attended a screening of the video series "I Am Congo,” produced by the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign. In this guest blog post she writes about the impact the stories featured in the video had on her work.
From endangered silverback gorillas to rebel guerilla movements in its eastern region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country that invokes a wide array of images to the average American. Located right in the heart of Africa, Congo is certainly geographically remote from America—and in many ways, the country remains mentally remote for most as well.
To the extent that some are aware of the Congo, their sentiments often take the form of extreme concern. And there’s plenty to be concerned about, especially in the country’s East: rampant and unchecked violence, mass rape, displacement, disease, poverty, corruption, natural resource exploitation – the list goes on, driving home a seemingly unavoidable conclusion that the Congo is plagued with more problems than any single country could reasonably handle. Over the last two decades, millions of Congolese have suffered in a way that most of us can only imagine (but would rather not). In a world where plenty of other human tragedies compete for our limited attention, it’s all too easy to put Congo on a mental backburner; the problems are simply too complicated and too varied to sum up in catchy soundbites, and no peace seems forthcoming anyway.
That makes the message of the Raise Hope for Congo campaign particularly important. The “I Am Congo” videos inspire awareness and action—but not through an invariably depressing recitation of the Congo’s problems. Rather, “I Am Congo” is all about finding hope in real people who are making a positive difference in the Congo. Good news from the Congo isn’t easy to come by in the media these days—but that’s not because good things aren’t happening on the ground.
As an intern in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration, or PRM, I read about the situation in the Congo daily, especially as it relates to the more than two million Congolese who have been displaced as a result of violence and persecution. PRM helps to mitigate this situation by funding the work of many different partners working with internally displaced Congolese and those who are refugees outside of Congo. With PRM’s assistance, these organizations provide protection, ease suffering, and create solutions for the millions of Congolese who have been uprooted from their homes.
There are plenty of success stories to be told, not only of the work that PRM facilitates, but also of the life-saving efforts of many hundreds of Congolese. These stories are often buried, however, beneath the weight of difficult realities on the ground. Some may have mistakenly written the country off as a lost cause, but “I Am Congo” reminds us that it is anything but. To dismiss Congo simply as another failed state is to miss entirely the complexity of one of Africa’s largest and most fascinating countries—and to ignore a positive undercurrent of humanitarian action that animates so many Congolese.
The stories featured in “I Am Congo” quickly re-energized me and my PRM colleagues who joined me at a screening of the videos. In teasing out the different strands of the complex conflict, what comes through most is the humanity of these five brave Congolese who are working to make a meaningful difference in their country and communities. Whatever horror the violence in the Congo may continue to inspire, the humanity of “I Am Congo” encourages us to feel something else equally important: HOPE.
Wendy is a third-year law student at Georgetown University and an intern in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.