Ryan Gosling, authors discuss new book on exploitation in the Congo

Actor Ryan Gosling and three other contributors to a new nonfiction book about exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo spoke at Betts Theatre Thursday about implementing positive change in the country.

The nonfiction book, titled “Congo Stories: Battling Five Centuries of Exploitation and Greed,” chronicles the history of the republic, the struggles of Congolese people and the efforts to redirect the country’s future. At the discussion, hosted by the bookstore Politics and Prose, panelists discussed the consequences of colonialism on the republic and how the United States and Europe can use their historical dependence on Congolese resources to help move the country forward.

Gosling, who took the photographs featured in the book, said the pictures show “themes of unwavering resilience and unwillingness to be broken.” He said the photos were not originally intended to be published in a book, but he became part of the project through his friendship with John Prendergast, a human rights activist and one of the book’s authors.

Prendergast said sexual violence, corruption and exploitation in the Congo are the results of Belgian colonization and Western countries’ consumption and exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

“We and our ancestors are indirectly responsible for Congo’s current crisis,” he said.

He added that the United States’ and Europe’s existing economic link with the Congo allow the two countries to “work in solidarity” with the African nation and its people to help effect “economic decolonization.”

“As beneficiaries and consumers of Congo’s exploitation, we all can play a role in supporting these upstanders,” he said.

Fidel Bafilemba, one of the book’s authors, said the Congo’s crises are often labeled as “ethnic tensions” and “land disputes” to obscure the culpability that the United States and Europe share for oppressing the Congolese people.

“If you want to be intellectually correct and honest, you will not ever forget that link for over five centuries,” he said.

Bafilemba asked the audience to combat the exploitation of humans and natural resources by demanding that companies go “conflict-free” and stop sourcing minerals like tantalum, tin and tungsten from areas with armed conflict. He said such demands would “pay reparation to pay for what has been committed.”

Chouchou Namegabe, a Congolese radio journalist and author of the book’s afterword, said sexual violence has become a “scourge” in the DRC. She said civil movements led by young women have given her hope for the future.

“That’s why I have hope, because of the tireless work of young women,” she said. “I hope change for the DRC will come through women.”

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