Unsettled settlers

2013-06-22 09:57

The people of Mugunga III camp near Goma in the DRC have created an imperfect new village within the conflict zone. Photographer Leon Sadiki captures images of daily life there.

Leon ‘The Rasta’ Sadiki is not given to getting emotional about his subjects. Photojournalists don’t generally have that luxury.

He was recently in the eastern DRC with journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh, hoping to document the South African troops who were set to arrive to bolster the government and – with that – control of the country’s oil and minerals.

When the soldiers were delayed, the team set off instead to meet the leaders of M23, a rising rebel outfit operating from the base of Mount Nyiragongo, an active volcano. They stopped at Mugunga III for a few hours before heading on.

The Rasta’s photos of the trip burst with colour and life, yet the conditions people are living in are soul-destroying. ‘Nothing has changed for such a long time,’ he says. ‘People have settled.

That’s the saddest. They call Mugunga home. It’s wet and cold and they live in tents donated by the United Nations. The whole time I was in Goma I knew I was going to be able to go back home, to my bed, to a politically stable country.

These people don’t have that. They live by rules that govern their safety. Make no noise about rebels, don’t travel at night…’

As rebels advanced, people fled nearby camps and came here, where they feel safer because the camp is guarded by UN troops. Some of these people are double refugees, having fled the genocide in Rwanda to make a new life in the DRC.

Many were hesitant about having their photos taken.

‘When we got to the camp, a woman said that if we take photos we must please make sure the story is about people wanting peace. Do a story that bears fruit. But mostly people have lost hope. Even the woman who said that to us, it’s obvious she’s seen many journalists coming and going and nothing ever changed.’

He talks me through his photos . - Words by Charl Blignaut

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