Documentary. The Empire of Silence, or the Congo opposite

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The film by Belgian director Thierry Michel was presented on Tuesday evening in Brussels, as a world preview as part of the Festival of Freedoms, which takes place until Sunday at the Wallonia-Brussels National Theater. In front of the huge room full to the brim – we had refused to the world – the documentary which lasts nearly two hours (110 minutes) was followed with a mixture of horror and delight. Horror, because it is those of the war that the film describes with sometimes almost unbearable precision: we see the emaciated bodies of the masses of Hutu refugees dying slowly, abandoned by all – only Emma Bonino, then European Commissioner for Aid humanitarian, tries to come to their aid in the hell of Tingi-Tingi. In vain, no one will listen to him. We will continue to kill them. We see women and children, raped, killed by the soldiers and left there on the roads, the mass graves that the villagers dig while weeping, the parades of soldiers proud to have done this “work” for which an officer in galaxy congratulates them. .

Women raising their heads

But we also see these women who raise their heads, who fight and organize themselves for justice and dignity, these men who resist barbarism and save honor. Like this director of the Red Cross of Mbandaka refusing the order from above (from President Joseph Kabila in person) to erase the traces of the massacres by emptying the mass grave to throw the corpses in the Congo River, which has carried so much… We can finally see all along the magnificent landscapes crossed by this majestic river, and we understand that Thierry Michel absolutely loves them.

The ex-Belgian Congo, Thierry Michel devoted thirty years of his life to it. “This film,” he says, “is the eleventh in a series that began with The Serpent’s Cycle. It will also be the last. It is my participation in the Congolese fight for justice, without which there will never be peace, as Dr. Denis Mukwege says ”.

617 fully documented cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity

This gynecological surgeon, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 for his work with women raped and martyred by twenty-six years of incessant wars, Thierry Michel has already dedicated a film to him: “The man who repairs women”. He is now supporting him in his fight to ensure that the criminals responsible for the horrors of war that this film so abundantly shows are finally hunted down and punished. There is a UN report, the Mapping Report, published in 2010 which details part of it: 617 duly documented cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the leaders of the countries involved, because their armies took part – Rwanda, Uganda, DRC of Kabila father and son – opposed the names of “their” criminals to be revealed. “The lists are kept secret in the drawers of the United Nations,” admits the former head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Scott Campbell and, therefore, it is impossible to prosecute them. Some have become high dignitaries of the regimes in place. No UN member country has had the courage to demand that they be tried by the International Criminal Court. However, Thierry Michel’s film breaks this “Empire of silence”. The witnesses he questions and who have the courage to speak with their faces uncovered quote names, dates and places. They say, like the Franco-Congolese journalist Déo Namujimbo, ready to testify in court. There is irrefutable proof there, in images and in words, which could weigh very heavy in any possible lawsuits.

In this sense, this film is a “political bomb”, provided that it is seen by as many people as possible and that the defenders of human rights and peace seize it and use it as a weapon. . A weapon for the truth which will be visible in theaters in France and Belgium from January 2022 and presented in November at the Cinematographic Days of Carthage, Tunisia. Before, we hope, tours in the African countries most concerned by the tragedies that it shows and which unfortunately continue, day after day, in the east of the “democratic” Congo.

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