Ever creative and irreverent, VICE magazine recently ventured to eastern Congo to put together a five-part video series, The VICE Guide to Congo. The finished product explores the artisanal mining in the region and draws on Enough’s expertise in the field: Fidel Bafilemba, our Goma-based field researcher advised the crew on their trip, and our contract photographer from South Sudan, Tim Freccia, made many of the video and still images. Here’s episode 1:
Narrated by VICE co-founder Suroosh Alvi, the team takes us trekking in the Congolese jungle at night, on rickety planes, and on motorbikes and in Land Cruisers barreling down rutted out roads to illustrate the insecurity caused by rival militias and a national army that is “rough around the edges,” to say the least.
Throughout the trip chronicle, a recurring theme is the role minerals play in perpetuating the conflict. And Alvi’s self-deprecating side notes—“I’m not afraid to say it. I’m soft, living in New York City, sitting at my desk 12 hours a day,” or walking off camera and asking for an Imodium—provide a realistically gritty look at remote eastern Congo.
While being a thoroughly entertaining travel diary—with far more expletives than you’re used to seeing in human rights-related reportage—the series compellingly illustrates the myriad, interwoven challenges the country faces. “There are no easy answers,”Alvi says, pausing and looking into the camera as he realizes that the statement sums it up.
“We did, however, see some signs of hope and progress,” Alvi says. “But it’s a fragile progress, in a place where anyone with a gun and an agenda can basically have his own little kingdom.”
To accompany the video series, VICE also published this insightful Q+A with Enough’s Fidel Bafilemba, in which he not only explains the connection between the conflict and minerals extraction but also shocks with the revelation that once-upon-a-time he was affiliated with a Mai Mai group—the political wing!