Face on Blanket Tells Congo’s Woeful Tale

congo burial

Burial in the face’s village

The image of the face of the Congolese woman resting on the pink and blue blanket is grafted onto the frontal lobe of my brain — the repository of my knowledge of good and evil, my emotions, and my memories. It is just a face. It has no skull structure, no bones, and no body to give it context.

The face is the remnant of a person who lived in Congo before Congo Army (FARDC) helicopter gunships blew up a village by mistake in their relentless pursuit of M23 rebel forces. The woman’s soul is elsewhere, but her face offers silent testimony to atrocity. Civilian collateral damage has happened before, but this is the first time international media has recognized that something is going terribly wrong in eastern Congo. President Bertrand Bisimwa of the rebel M23 political and military movement said the attack on the rebel-held Rumangabo camp, 25 miles north of Goma, killed civilians, according to the Washington Post.


The village where the face lived (Photo from M23 press release)

I feel like a crazy person when I wonder what it would be like to have the face transplanted onto mine. It is medically possible. Would the woman be able to speak through me? Would the world finally listen to the voices of the innocent who are raped and mutilated and finally bombed into fragments?

Certainly the grafting of a face of a Congolese woman onto a white American would be a media sensation. I could speak through lips that were silenced and use her nostrils as a conduit for life-giving oxygen. I would see through my own eyes, but use her countenance to tell the stories of her village and her loved ones. Her mouth would speak the truths now stored in my frontal lobe — the knowledge of evils seen but just as soon forgotten.

Would I exploit the face if I used it in this manner?

No one listened to the face when it was attached to a woman living in the village, but the world would never have enough of the face once it is grafted onto the white woman from the USA. Talk shows, lectures, book deals and media tours would make the face a universal sensation.

georgianne nienaberIronically, the US is responsible for the face that rests on the pink and blue blanket in Congo. Maybe the face would ask the question no one is asking. Why is the international community providing military aid to FARDC while they blow up villages? Why are we sending drones to MONUSCO while they are supporting FARDC’s monstrous corpse desecrations of M23 casualties last week and the rapes last year of 102 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6, in Minova by US-trained troops? Inner City Press reports that the 391st battalion was implicated in both the rapes and the desecrations. It was trained by the United States “as a model for future reforms within the Congolese armed forces,” according to AFRICOM.

I wish I could graft the face onto my own. It is an insane wish. For now the face will remain wedded to my frontal lobe as a permanent reminder of evil.

Georgianne Nienaber

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on July 25, 2013
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About Georgianne Nienaber

Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, The Ugandan Independent, Rwanda's New Times, India's TerraGreen, COA News, ZNET, OpEdNews, Glide Magazine, The Journal of the International Primate Protection League, Africa Front, The United Nations Publication, A Civil Society Observer, Bitch Magazine, and Zimbabwe's The Daily Mirror. Her fiction exposé of insurance fraud in the horse industry, Horse Sense, was re-released in early 2006. Gorilla Dreams: The Legacy of Dian Fossey was also released in 2006. She spent much of 2007-2009 doing research in South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Georgianne was in DRC as a MONUC-accredited journalist, and has been working in Southern Louisiana investigating hurricane reconstruction and getting to know the people there since late 2007. She is a member of the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Georgianne is currently developing a short story collection set in Louisiana, and is continuing "to explore the magic of the Deep South."

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