Downstream to Kinshasa

Downstream to Kinshasa is a documentary following the attempts of the victims of the 6 Days War to get the compensation allocated to them by taking their case to Parliament in Kinshasa.

The 6 Days War occurred in 2000, when the fighting between Rwanda and Uganda spilled across the border onto Democratic Republic of Congo soil. Ordinary people living in Kisangani were suddenly caught up in a war that had nothing to do with them. They were going about their everyday lives when gunfire opened, bombs dropped, and a full-on war began in their streets. Over 1000 people died, and 3000 people were wounded.

For this, the International Criminal Court found Uganda guilty of war crimes, and ordered them to pay the DRC compensation, a million of which was to go directly to victims. 20 years on the victims have seen hide nor hair of this money.

The film follows the survivors as they travel from Kisangani to Kinshasa to have their stories heard and acknowledged by the country’s rulers. And if you don’t understand what a feat that is, you don’t understand what it means to travel on crutches with two prosthetics 1000 miles, for days in wind and rain.

The boat journey was, for me, particularly tense. I’m not the biggest fan of the water, and the boat didn’t have raised sides, so anytime anyone went near the edge, my stomach just dropped.

For the group, this undertaking puts a strain on tempers, finances, and energy, but possibly the most finite resource is hope. The whole journey is a struggle to keep their spirits up, and believe that this government of corrupt bastards will part with money for them. 20 years of dashed hopes and justice denied weigh heavily on them, particularly the group chairman, Lemalema. As if being a casualty of war is not enough, and the everyday struggle their disabilities and society’s ableism poses, on top of this they must deal with being robbed by the very people whose job it is to act for their benefit.

Downstream to Kinshasa is about the very best and very worst in humanity. The shamelessness of the bastards in Parliament who dare to walk right past them, in their well-pressed suits, while they hoard the money from people with worn-out prosthetic legs, and battered crutches. And on the other hand, the kindness, support and strength the survivors share with each other, doing for each other, helping one another, buoying one another’s spirits, and giving one another the hope to carry on. Very moving film.