March 5, 2013 |
A decade ago, Canadian writer-director Kim Nguyen started working on the script that would become "War Witch," a film about a girl in sub-Saharan Africa who is kidnapped by rebels, conscripted as a child soldier and forced to commit horrific acts of violence. Around the same time, Rachel Mwanza was abandoned by her parents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at age 6, living with her grandmother for a time and then fending for herself on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital. Nguyen was finally able to put his film into production in 2011 and cast Mwanza in the title role.
February 20, 2013 |
A few years ago, Rachel Mwanza was fending for herself on the streets of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; this week, the 16-year-old actress will be in attendance at Hollywood's biggest night. Mwanza, star of the film "War Witch," has been granted a visa to travel to the U.S. and Canada to attend various award shows, including the Academy Awards, where the Canadian production is nominated for best foreign-language film. (The film is in French and Lingala.) "War Witch," directed by Kim Nguyen, tells the story of Komona (played by Mwanza)
January 21, 2013 |
GOMA, Congo - It's an ungainly beast of a machine: a wooden bicycle with handlebars like great bull's horns, two runtish wooden wheels, a chunky frame like a squashed triangle and no pedals. There's no seat either, just a kneepad fixed to the frame, made from a spongy Chinese flip-flop. The Congolese chikudu looks like it rolled right off the pages of a child's drawing book and onto the rutted roads of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Uzima Bahati, 18, was a child himself when he became a chikudu operator.
December 23, 2012 |
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo - On Nov. 19, armed men from a rebel group called the M23 were looking for a prominent civil society leader in a village outside Goma, a provincial capital in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He'd been in hiding for several weeks after receiving text messages threatening him for his public denunciations of M23 abuses. When the rebels didn't find him, they shot his colleague, killing him. The next day, the M23 - fighters who had integrated into the Congolese army in 2009 but mutinied earlier this year - took control of Goma.
December 22, 2012 |
GOMA, Congo - These days, the U.N. force deployed to protect the city's population from rampant militias is not particularly popular. Residents complain that the peacekeepers last month should have prevented Rwanda-backed M23 rebels from taking over the largest city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Some even assert that their country would be better off without the international force, known as MONUSCO, which at $1.4 billion a year is the U.N.'s most expensive peacekeeping mission, and the most controversial.
December 20, 2012 |
GOMA, Congo - It was not the bullet lodged in the officer's gut, or the botched operation he'd had in a field hospital, that made the case so difficult for doctors in a Goma hospital. It was trying to save the life of a Rwandan officer injured in the recent Congolese battle for the eastern city when Rwanda's government insisted it wasn't involved in the Goma fighting. Doctors were convinced the officer would die if he wasn't sent home to Rwanda, where he could get better medical care.