The Forgotten Trauma of a Forgotten War

Roundup
tags: Africa, military history, Democratic Republic of Congo

GOMA, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo -- The boy was sitting next to his father, as he so often did. He mimicked his dad in every way. He wanted to be just like him, but Muhindo Maronga Godfroid, then a 31-year-old primary school teacher and farmer, had bigger plans for his two-and-a-half-year-old son. He would go to university one day. He would become a “big name” -- not just in their village of Kibirizi, but in North Kivu Province, maybe the entire Democratic Republic of Congo. The boy was exceedingly smart. He was, Godfroid said, “amazing.” He could grow up to be a leader in a country in desperate need of them.

Kahindo Jeonnette was just putting dinner on the table when someone began pounding on the front door. “Open! Open! Open!” a man yelled in Swahili. Jeonnette was startled.

The 24-year-old mother of two looked at her husband. Godfroid shook his head. “I can’t open the door unless you say who you are,” she called out.

“I’m looking for your husband. I’m his friend,” came the response.

“It’s too late now. My husband can’t come out. Come back tomorrow,” she replied.

The man shouted, “Then I’m going to open it!” and pumped several bullets into the door. One tore through Godfroid’s left hand, leaving him with just a thumb and two-and-a-half fingers. For a moment, he was stunned. The pain had yet to hit him and he couldn’t quite piece together what had happened. Then he turned his head and saw his tiny son splayed out on the floor.

The grieving parents can’t even bring themselves to utter their late son’s name. “I’ll never forget seeing my baby lying there,” Jeonnette told me, her eyes red and glassy, as we sat in the kitchen of her two-room, clapboard home in a tumbledown area of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province. “I close my eyes and that’s all I can see.”

No one knows who exactly killed Jeonnette and Godfroid’s son. No one knows exactly why. His death was just one more murder in an endless tally; a killing somehow tied to a war started decades before he breathed his first breath; a homicide abetted by an accident of birth -- the bad luck of being born in a region roiled by a conflict as interminable as it is ignored.

Read entire article at Tom Dispatch