Democratic Republic of Congo

The calm before the storm. Looking across Lake Kivu to Goma, DRC in August, before the cease-fire/peace treaty was broken. Luckily, my two day experience there was safe and the only thing I lost was my toenail on the hike down from the volcano.

Our amazing porters carried everything-but-the-kitchen-sink up the rough terrain of the Nyirangongo volcano in Goma. Praying that they are okay and safe during this conflict.

Camping on top of the active volcano at night during a lunar eclipse.
Volcano pictures by Mitch Stookey

Fleeing refugees in Goma

Where extortion, rape and murder are common everyday experiences for the millions of inhabitants of this lawless, but stunning country...
  1. Formerly known as Zaire until 1997.
  2. Current population 62.6 million people
  3. Has the longest running and largest UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC comprises of 17,000 peacekeepers)
  4. Most resource-rich nation: contains 80% of the world's Coltan (found in all electronic equipment) as well as large quantities of copper. diamonds and oil. Reports suggest the Rwandan army has made $250 million from selling coltan in 18 months, despite there being no coltan to mine in Rwanda.
  5. A Coltan miner in the DRC can make between $50-$200USD compared to $10USD salary of an average Congalese worker.
  6. Only 4 ATMs in whole country. All of which are located in the capital city of Kinshasa.
  7. The Congolese eat lots of monkey meat.
  8. Former dictator, Mobutu (1965-1997), used to bathe in Chanel No. 5 cologne and engage in intimate relations with his twin sister.
  9. Local army is paid $20 USD a month, the UN counterpart is paid $10000 USD a month.
  10. Since 1998, 5.4 million people have been killed in the the civil war/conflict. 45,000 continue to die each month. Major human right violations and atrocities are committed on a day-to-day basis. Days ago, rebel troops led by Laurent Nkunda advanced on the city of Goma, further deteriorating the fragile situation in North Kivu/Eastern DRC and causing tens of thousands to flee.
  11. The world's deadliest conflict since World War 2.