“Nobody cares about Africa,” he told me after I mentioned that I had grown up in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Not the response I expected to hear from a guy a couple years older than I who rolled his own cigarettes and looked like he would have been right at home in the 70s. I waited for him to add “but I care,” or “I wish more people did care,” but he didn’t.
“Why would you what to go to Africa” my friend’s grandpa asked me. “Only black people live there.” I waiting hoping for a sign that he was joking, but there was none. This sweet old man, who went to church all his life, seemed quite serious and a little worried that I was going to waste my life caring about people who didn’t matter.
I never know how to respond to these statements. How could you not care about the people who live in Africa? Then I think about the genocide that has taken place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. No one seems to care about that.
It has been estimated that 5.4 million civilians have died in DRC since 1996. The violence in Congo has resulted in it being named the bloodiest conflict since World War II. Yet, the world is strangely silent and has been for years. It has been estimated that nearly 2 million women have been raped during what is known as the Great African War. While this deadly war officially ended in July of 2003, the violence has not completely gone away. Unstableness continues. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes, and many survivors are left scared and traumatized. This is the holocaust of my generation, and hardly anyone seems to know that it exists, why? Is it true; do people really not care about Africa?
I grew up with kids who were later killed with machetes. Not soldiers in uniforms but children. We used to play soccer together, jump rope, and ride handmade wooden bikes. Yes, I care about Africa. I care about the people I grew up with. I care about the women who were raped. I care about the parents who lost their children and the children who lost their parents. I care about this silent genocide, and I believe that if more people only knew what was going on more people would care as well.