Usually, when we talk about Congolese people, we usually think of their music -- and rightly so. It has given birth to Blues, Jazz, Gospels and Afrobeats to name but a few.
We often also talk about Congolese people as sapeur, in their bright colour shirts, completed with pointy shoes, to sooth the soul of the onlooker. It's a ritual that has now become a trend across the continent.
But there is another group we should be talking about -- even protecting and supporting -- but as yet have not: Congolese women; the women my mother and I call aunties, koko and nieces and neighbours.
For the past 20-years, rebel groups in and outside the Congolese and Rwandan armies have been targeting Congolese women in order to gain control of Congolese land and loot minerals that make our mobile phone you are using to read this blog vibrate and our electric cars environmentally friendly whilst destroying Congolese women and Congo as a nation.
Between 1998 and 2008, over 5.4 million Congolese people were killed because of this. That is equivalent to Scotland’s population. Why aren't we talking about this?
As a black woman, one of the troubling realities of this crisis is that the battlefields for these ongoing killings have been Congolese women's bodies -- and the weapon of choice rebels use is rape -- and the social and human costs have been soulcrushing. This is the reason my friends and I and strangers are using #CongoIsBleeding on social media to mobilise support and raise awareness.
According a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, an estimated 1200 Congolese women are raped every day. That's one every minute. This has been ongoing since 1996. Do the maths. This is why the UN has labelled Congo as the rape capital of the world. Yet almost none of those involved have been brought to justice; creating a culture of impunity and a network of war criminals across the region who continue to target Congolese women for minerals destined for the stock exchange in the West.
Although most of my fellow Congolese people, including our influencers on social media, are aware of this silent yet deadly and devastating war, strangely not many post about it but post and protest about #BlackLivesMatter. The mainstream media, too, doesn't often report about it -- and, consequently, the wider world and many of my fellow millennials on social media are only beginning to discover it because of our use of #CongoIsBleeding.
Let me give you one example that should trigger you. In 2010, the United Nations published a survey called #MappingReport revealing that 617 war crimes were committed against Congolese people between 1993 to 2003. Yet none of those implicated have been held accountable for these horrific crimes.
This is why #CongoIsBleeding. You have to wonder like many Congolese people I know have been: why has no one been punished?
And most importantly, what does this say about the value of Congolese lives, about our shared humanity?
Impunity is killing women my mother and I call aunties, koko and nieces and neighbours. But we are still hopeful and fighting for peace. But peace begins with justice. So to end this crisis, Congolese people are now calling for the creation of an "International Criminal Tribunal for Congo" to bring those responsible to justice, prevent future atrocities and restore peace.
You want to help? Please educate yourself and spread awareness by tweeting or Instagraming about this using #CongoIsBleeding. This is not just a Congolese issue, this is a human, African, black and feminist issue. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
If you have a minute to spare then please sign our Congolese women-led petition for the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal for Congo: https://join.amnesty.org/page/
In the same way that peace begins with justice, stability and development also begins with women. So please invest in Congolese women -- and here are two of my favourite Congolese organisations working with Congolese women on the ground: #YellowSunday (PayPal: to firstname.lastname@example.org) and Panzi Hospital, which is led by the Nobel Peace Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who’s life is also at threat for exposing the crimes committed against Congolese women: https://www.panzifoundation.
Written by - Dora Balusa
Twitter - @Dora90z