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177 Nations of Tasmania - Episode 51 - Conflict in the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a big country, the second-largest in Africa, and also one of the most populous. It's also rich in valuable minerals, particularly diamonds. It has also been the scene of one of the longest-running and brutal conflicts in the world in the last 25 years, yet it has received scant attention, although it is estimated that over 5 million people died as a result of the Second Congo War alone. Second Congo War - Wikipedia

Some might say that it is far away and doesn't effect us here in Australia, but with more and more Congolese settling here in the last decade, it clearly has had an impact well beyond its borders despite many turning a blind eye to it.

Of course, to read an article about the history of the conflict is one thing, and it does help one to understand a bit of the wider context and the reasons for the ongoing strife, but it is another thing to here of personal stories about life in the Democratic Republic of Congo and how the conflict and the danger is bought impacted families.

Cedric, though young when his family left the Congo, was able to describe very eloquently his memories of family life and school in his country of birth and emphasised how some of the lessons he learnt at that age set him in good stead later in life. The story of his family's flight out of a dangerous situation to third countries ( Nigeria and then Benin) was illustrative of the experience of many refugees escaping war or persecution. I hope it will help some understand why the situation for refugee families in countries like Benin is not really sustainable - they have few rights and are vulnerable to exploitation. Cedric's family's story of coming to Australia should also demonstrate how Australia picks and chooses who it accepts into Australian under its Humanitarian Program. We used to hear so often about a "queue" and that certain groups of people were "queue-jumpers", but the reality is that Australia chooses very carefully who it takes and for those who get chosen it can be a bit of a lottery rather than waiting their turn in an orderly queue.

All of this is important in my opinion, to help better understand why many African refugees end up here and to have a better understanding of the circumstances that they've come from and how that may have shaped their perspectives. It should also be said that we need to bust more of the silly stereotypes around refugees, particularly from Africa. Although many have had a disrupted education, like Cedric, many bring with them a strong sense of determination and enterprise. In fact, it was interesting to hear Cedric say that he felt pressure to make the most of the chance he'd been given.

But, of course, most of Cedric's story is not set in Africa, but in Tasmania, the place which he has come to embrace as his home. As he points out, he's spent more of his life in Tasmania now than in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has got his education and started raising his family here.

And as regards family, I was struck by his lovely answer to my question "What do you hope for in the future for your daughter?". In summary, he told me that he wanted her to be judged by who she is and not the colour of her skin, which is, I think a worthy hope that everyone should support.


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