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General News    H3'ed 10/10/19

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Lives (and Names) Lost

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Slow Burn

Muhindo Maronga Godfroid and Kahindo Jeonnette, both from the Nande ethnic group, hail from Rutshuru. While they don't know for certain who attacked their home on November 24, 2017, they suspect that Nyatura, a Congolese Hutu militia, was behind it.

When the couple returned from the hospital following the shooting, they found their home completely looted. Fearing for their lives, they fled to Goma, where I met them, with their five-year-old daughter Eliane. All three now live in a two-room shack in a rough part of town where dirt and volcanic rock serve as the floors of most homes.

With his injured hand, Godfroid has been unable to find work. The family survives on the money Jeonnette makes by selling lotoko, a potent local moonshine.

Wearing blue jeans and a red Liverpool soccer jersey, Godfroid continued to talk with me about their son until Jeonnette walked over and waved her hand as if to say, No more. The conversation had left her shaken and she didn't want to hear about or talk about or think about that horrible night for one second more. Jeonnette said that she needed a drink. Would I like to join her? After an hour of my questions about the violence that had upended her world, about the death of a son whose name she couldn't bring herself to utter, how could I not?

Jeonnette can't forget that night, the sight of her son, the moment her life fell apart, but the world has forgotten the humanitarian crisis in Congo -- to the extent that it was ever aware of it in the first place. After several decades of conflict, after a "World War" most people on this planet don't even know happened (let alone killed millions), after rebel raids and village massacres, after countless attacks and uncounted murders, Congo's constellation of crises remains largely ignored. It's a burning reservoir of pain for which -- the yeoman efforts of Human Rights Watch and the Congo Research Group aside -- there is neither an accounting nor accountability.

Retreating to the back room, Jeonnette emerged with a metal cannister of crystal-clear liquor and poured a bit for each of us. As we toasted the memory of her son and I savored the slow burn of the lotoko, Jeonnette took a deep breath and leaned toward me. "This trauma lives in my heart. I can't escape it," she said, her eyes brimming with hurt. "This country keeps pulling us back. We just can't move forward."

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch. He is the author of Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan and the award-winning Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer's new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Nick Turse

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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