Life in Goma

January 17, 2009

A woman just died.

A complication of birth.  A cesarian section that would have been a normal procedure in the U.S.   In Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it was a death sentence.  Her family awaited the new baby with eager anticipation.  They left weeping, mourning the loss of a wife, sister, daughter and friend.  I cried as well.

It is my first day in Congo.  I came to photograph the female victims of the prolific sexual violence that has plagued this region for years.  In this one day, Congo has already taught me that it is unlike any place I've ever been.

I arrived overland from Kigali, Rwanda and what should have been a three-hour drive took my lethargic driver over four.  We arrived at the small border post well past dark.  As he dropped me on the Rwandan side and took my money, I called “what if there is a problem?” to his disappearing back. 

The border was dark, I trudged along with heavily armed military into one of the most conflict ridden countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I was stopped for border formalities.  The guards seemed nervous.  They scoffed at my letter of invitation and threatened to send me back to Rwanda.  A driver from HEAL Africa arrived and phoned for help.  It was 8pm when Dr. Jo Lusi, the head of mission, arrived in scrubs smooth things over.  Apparently, my arrival had coincided with a quiet meeting between DRC’s President Kabila and the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame.  The border was closed to any suspicious looking characters…