Forgotten Children of Congo
A few years ago I travelled to Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ) with friend and colleague Alex Tweedle to make a documentary 'Forgotten Children of Congo'. This was a self funded project to go to one of the most troubled countries in the world to see and film for ourselves the impact decades of war, dictatorship and colonialism had on this country. We were particularly interested in the country's children - many of whom have become conscripts in armies. Others, believed to be witches, have been thrown out of the family home to join an estimated 25 thousand street children who live in the capital city of Kinshasa.
Congo is the size of western Europe and has vast mineral wealth and yet its people remain one of the poorest. Conflicts in the Congo are the largest since WW2 - an estimated 5 million people have died through war, disease and famine since 1998.
One of the more recent phenomenas of the country, and one indeed that is sweeping Africa, is that of 'child witches'. The label 'witch' is given to the child usually by the local pastor, who will ask the family for what little money they have to exorcise the demon from the child.
Such is the hysteria about this phenomenon that, in most cases, the family agree and the pastor performs an exorcism. This ceremony can take from hours through to days and, from our experience, includes the child being confined, drugged and made to confess - failure to do so only increases the amount of suffering the child will go through. If the child does not confess they will be thrown out of the family home for fear of attacks from villagers who believe the child will curse the surrounding area. In our experience we found many children who had been brutally maimed or killed after being labelled a 'witch'.