The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of raw mineral wealth, with diamonds, copper, crude oil, cobalt, gold, uranium and coltan. In fact, these vast resources are the cause of the struggle for power within and outside Congo. In recent years, coltan has been at the center of the fight since this precious ore is a key element in cell phones, computer chips, nuclear reactors and PlayStations. (While there is no coltan in Rwanda, it is estimated that the Rwandan army made $20 million per month mining coltan in 2000.)
The majority of its people, though, live in miserable conditions. Since 1998, the war between the Congolese government and Rwanda and Ugandan-backed rebels has left an estimated three and a half million people dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
In June 2005, Francesco Zizola traveled throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. The portraits included in this portfolio focus on women – the silent victims of the ongoing conflict in the DRC; victims of war, famine and disease. Women who are malnourished, suffering from sleeping sickness, AIDS and victims of sexual violence – a weapon used by both sides against the civilian population in the DRC. In a traditional society like the DRC, the enormous amount of stigma associated with rape effects not only the victim, but also her children, her husband and her family.