We conducted two focus group discussions with some Congolese, aged 22-40. The details of who was involved in the discussion will be shadowy, given the content of the discussions. Still, I wanted to share some of the respondents’ thoughts on life in the DRC, including the challenges they face and foreigners in the DRC. They talked about corruption, the burning desire for money, unemployment, the Interahamwe. For background on the Interahamwe, check here.
What is the best part of life for people your age in the DRC?
Businesses, trying to make businesses.”
“Dancing! My friends we dance, we go to the club, yes!”
“ We look for money; We look for a job.”
“Many people of our age prefer gold …. The objective is to be rich”
What are some of the challenges of life for people your age in the DRC?
“It’s simple. We are poor. We are looking for money.”
“Many of us have fake degrees from useless universities. Then, there are no jobs when school is done. If you have no relatives, you have no job. For the first born, the parents can send them to the university. But he graduates and he can’t get a job. Then the parent will not send the next one.”
“We have killing people and stealing. They can kidnap and kill. For just $5 or $10, they kill.”
“The young men, they have no jobs, so they are joining rebel groups for money. The rebels tell them, ‘Join us! You will get a big house…..lots of money.’ They are poor, what can they do?”
“We have churches everywhere, on every corner. They collect money. Everyone wants his own church so he can earn some money. They just want to collect money for themselves.”
“I should not talk, we can be killed here.”
“She’s right, this is the DRC, you can be killed.
What else? Are there any other problems?
The problem is our government. There is nepotism throughout.”
“Yes, but the government needs to get rid of the Interahamwe for us. They should get them out of the forest for us. Because the tribal war. See the Hutus came (following the Rwanda genocide). We gave them a place to live. The Tutsis came to look for those Hutus and the Hutus went into the forest and that’s a big problem of us. The main problem is this in the DRC. The rich part of the DRC is in the East. Our Congolese population want to do farm occupation, but they can’t because their land was taken by those militia. They were killed or chased from their land or it is just not safe any more. The international community has the power to take the Interhamwe out of our forest and return them to their country. But no, Why? (Why don’t they?) I don’t know why. Our president has no power. If the president doesn’t agree with the international community, they’ll push him out.”
“You should not speak!”
“Another problem is that we Congolese, we never like each other. We are corrupt. We have to change.”
“Yes but the corruption is because we are very, very poor! …. a big problem is the government”
“We do like the corruption. We need to be rich. Instead of working, we are waiting for help.”
“(in response) But we shouldn’t wait, see your relatives over there…they’ll die. There will be orphans.”
“When you have nothing. When your children are at home, not at school. You have nothing. What can you do? You are the friend of so and so and you get a job, you take it. If no job, you want to know how to get in his house.”
“In 1987 we had 4% jobless; nowadays we have 94% jobless. Where we are going, we can’t keep going like this. From 1996 to today, I am victim of this situation (jobless)
Who are the people who come to the DRC? Where do outsiders come from?
You know we are neighbors with Rwanda. So Congolese and Rwandese are like the same so…”
“No we are not the same! THEY killed my father. We are not the same!”
“Well foreigners come from Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, some are working for international organizations.”
“A lot of Chinese are around. Indians are around.”
“There are so many whites. We don’t know what they are….” (Congolese seem to call Indians and Chinese White)
“People are coming and stealing our money. When they are around they are stealing money. Everyone knows they come to steal our money. Even the children know.”
“Ah, we shouldn’t speak. Will you tell our leaders what we tell you?”
“How long will you be here?
There will be no names. This is confidential. I can show what she is writing…
“It (the FGD) is confidential, but this is the Congo. We kill each other! You might say it is confidential but we kill each other.”
“They come for business. They do business here. They pay to the government (taxes) to be able to do business.”
“Those Chinese come here. They say they will make roads. I don’t’ know why they come here. There are no roads.”
“Some white persons give to us some food. All of them are not that bad. Sometimes they help us.”
“But, they (UN Military and Peacekeepers) come and they infect our people with HIV. They tell they will help them. We didn’t use to know HIV but now we know HIV. They give money to infect our women. When they have money they marry/take our girls. They sleep with them (with their money) and now we know HIV.”
“They are here to destroy our country.”
“They just want [sex for a] $100 without condom. $1 with a condom. Why do you say they are good for us?”
“Everywhere we receive people like you. Every year. But nothing is changed.”
“People give them (girls) money. Many girls have to go with them and prostitute themselves. We Congolese, we never keep our girls. Parents never think of their girls and what they do. Their moms. They don’t take care. They will let their girls go look for money anywhere… anywhere.”
Is the problem that mothers don’t know how to raise their children? Or people coming from abroad?
“But those people coming from the UN. They came with money. They infect our girls. People think they came here to increase HIV. People say UN men pay much more for a woman without a condom. Many families are poor. They just go for the money.
Should government shut the doors?
Government should control the situation. … all the people that we get in our country. People come and go with no controls.”
“I think that our government must be protect the population. It isn’t bad for those business men to come in. We must compare what we gain by having them here.”
“I think our government, well people must explain what they are coming to do here. IF they respect our rules and respect all the people, the education of our children our daughters, that’s okay.”
“Our government should help the locals. I know a local firm that wanted to start a concrete business. The villager can’t pay the tax but the foreign business can so the villager cannot succeed.”
“It is because there is war. If there is no war, they will go to their own countries. You know they contract with the rebels.”
“The Rwandese come to get our minerals. The white bring the HIV (UN).
I have not included every statement. I have not edited their words or opinions. I only share them here.