An Unspeakable Act – Episodes 1 & 2

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

A rather disjointed post:

Fighting has flared up again in eastern DRC, with M23 (the rebel movement) continuing to rape, pillage and forcefully enlist child soldiers. There is a continuous stream of defections to this rebel group because of the abysmal conditions of the Conogolese army (note that this fact should make you second guess the standard “good vs. evil” paradigm in the context of this conflict), and the US recently annouced that it would cut military aid to Rwanda because of claims that Rawanda is giving support to M23. With such unrest, it is reasonable to be concerned that violence may escalate.

Listen : An Unspeakable Act – Episode 1 (BBC – Tinderbox)

Listen : An Unspeakable Act – Episode 2 (BBC – Tinderbox)

In this podcast, narrator Will Storr hears the personal testimonies of rape victims and their families in the DRC.

‘An Unspeakable Act,’ it is entitled, and yet these men and women speak. In fact, their speaking is what struck me. They (as opposed to a narrator alone) speak–despite the taboo, despite the trauma, despite the ongoing war. Sadly, as Storr notes, this production is in many ways not novel; it is just one more link in the chain of such stories that have gone before before and many such stories that will continue to be told as the problems in the DRC persist–with rape and atrocities being committed by both sides. Yet hearing the voices of men and women (victim and criminal) added something more to the humaness and reality of it.

[Contraposto: There is concern that our focus on sexual violence has perhaps invigorated soldiers to perpetrate further acts (e.g. they know that if they perpetrate such acts they will be granted a voice at the negotiation table), and that focusing on the symptoms (e.g. rape) may ignore the causes (e.g. poverty in the DRC army and a convolution of perceived gender roles)…I welcome your thoughts]

There is always a bit of theatre in these British radio productions (I could have done without the falsetto piano, for example), but in terms of being ‘dramatic’ in the sober sense of the word, this topic needs no assistance. My only regret is the fact that the narrator insists on us listeners “bearing witness” and implies that the victims are speaking largely so that we will hear them…but then he gives us no directive for further action. Who should we bear witness to? What should we do with our hearing? Why is it our responsibility, and how on earth can we do anything about it?

Now, realistically, I’m likely to question any suggestions the narrator might give, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that a broad swath of BBC listeners will be new to this topic and unfamiliar with the terrain of international politics, ngos and the chaotic conundrum that is DRC mining, land disputes and power strifes. As it stands, many listeners will be hindered by the massive informational barrier that lies between them and their desires to do something.

I will be learning more about this issue and in coming days. I’ll be sure to share links as I come across them.

Please contact me with your comments on this podcast, and with your own perspectives, connections and concerns about this issue.


Photojournalism – Women in the DRC


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