A beautiful, vibrant, colourful documentary on the armed conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I didn’t realise this, but a lot of these rebellions are just a grift for soldiers to raise their wages. If you’re sick of shit at your work, you go, “I want a raise or I’m leaving”. In the army, your employer’s got a monopoly on hiring soldiers, so they’re like, “Where ya gonna go?” So you set a rebellion faction, make yourself a pain in the arse, and then make it a demand of any ceasefire that you get your old job back with a higher wage, or with a promotion. A lot of this shit is a lot less ideologically motivated than you would assume.
However they all have a valid point to hang their hat on, which is that the president is corrupt, and the people of the country are not benefitting from the wealth of the country. There does need to be reform.
Into this morass steps Mamadou Ngela, a man so incredibly earnest and sincere he feels like he’s wandered into this documentary from a fable. He is a commander in the Congalese army, trying to maintain the country’s stability and security in the face of these numerous uprisings. He has such a profound degree of naiveity about the army and the government and how this game all works, that you assume he must be new to all this, but no, he’s been at this so long he has 16 bullet wounds across his body. He has the honest open manner of a child, still believing that it is his honoured duty to protect the people of the Congo from those that would drag it into war for their own personal gain. He is what he should be, unlike so many of us.
Yet he seems oblivious to the fact that the army is incredibly corrupt, that the army is as much the problem as the rebels, and that they are one and the same much of the time. He doesn’t seem to be living in the same reality where Congolese army soldiers rape women, massacre whole villages and contribute to the cycle of neverending misery in the country.
And watching Mamadou, you can understand how people come to follow and believe in a man like that, whose sincerity shines out him and whose devotion is mapped on his body in a series of scars. Over the course of the film you see Mamadou be appointed to the division in North Kivu, reform it to a much more professional body, lead the frontline attack on the local rebel group, and get a hero’s welcome from the townspeople who revere him as having saved their home. Then. What happens always happens. You can guess, or watch it for yourself.
But it is an excellent essay on how the richest resource a country has is its people, and how all and any solutions must come from them. If peace will happen, it will be because Congolese people make it happen.
P.S. Made me think I might see if I can’t get a job as an international peace keeper. It seems like a cushy job that mostly involves wearing a blue hat.