A few years ago I travelled to Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ) with friend and colleague, Alex Tweedle to make a documentary about the 'Forgotten Children of Congo'. This was a self funded project, to see and film for ourselves the impact decades of war and dictatorship had inflicted on one of the most troubled countries in the world. We were particularly interested in the country's children, many of whom had become conscripts in armies and others, labelled as 'witches', who had been thrown out of the family home to join an estimated twenty five thousand street children now living 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 in the world. Conflicts in the Congo are the largest since WW2 - an estimated five million people have died through war, disease and famine since 1998.
One of the more recent phenomenas of the country, which is also sweeping across 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 range from hours through to days and, from our experience, includes the child being confined, drugged and made to confess being a witch - 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'.
The final film was shown in film festivals around the world and distributed to children's charities to raise awareness of this abuse against innocent children who had no way of defending themselves against the adults who perpetrated this crime.