“The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo,” a feature-length documentary by Lisa F. Jackson, was awarded a Special Jury prize at Sundance last week. The film is unflinching in the face of the mass rape, mutilation, kidnapping and torture inflicted upon as many as hundreds of thousands of women and children in the Congo. Jackson, herself a survivor of gang rape in the US, interviews Congolese victims and rapists alike to uncover the world where such cruelty thrives.
Since 1998 an estimated 5.4 million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a result of ongoing insurgent violence, which has displaced more than 500,000 people from their homes in the last year alone. Most deaths occur from malnutrition, untreated injury, and disease.
The ongoing violence and instability has rent the nation into enclaves of virtual lawlessness, where atrocities are committed with impunity by nearly every side, including rebel factions, Congolese soldiers, and UN aid workers stationed in DRC.
At the very end of a long line of suffering are the Congo’s women and children. After visiting the Eastern Congo, Eve Ensler described it as “hell.” Lisa Jackson describes it as “a literal heart of darkness.”
Yet, even with 5.4 million dead in less than a decade and the ongoing rape and mutilation of hundreds of thousands of women and children, there remains little global awareness about the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Hopefully this film, and the less-publicized documentary Lumo, will raise awareness and much needed funds and aid to this devastated area.
Note: On January 23, 2008 a peace signing took place between Congolese President Kabila and representatives of General Laurent Nkunda, leader of the dominant Mai-Mai faction. The lasting implications of this agreement are as yet unclear.
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