The village in eastern Congo lies at the epicenter of one of Africa’s most brutal and longest-running wars. It is both military base and refugee camp, both killing field and sanctuary, a place woven from chaos and resilience. Civilians trapped in relentless violence struggle to live. Death arrives in many forms ”” guns, machetes, disease and hunger.
It is a war that has claimed an estimated 5 million lives, many from starvation, disease and other conflict-related causes, since 1998 ”” more casualties than the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined, and more than any conflict since World War II. It is a war that the world’s largest and most expensive U.N. peacekeeping mission has failed to quell. The peacekeepers, heavily financed by Washington, are now engaged in their most ambitious effort in years to end the fighting.
And yet the war remains invisible to most outsiders, who have grown weary of the unending cycle of violence. Today, relief groups have trouble raising money to help Congo as more publicized upheavals in Syria, South Sudan and elsewhere grab the world’s attention.