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Democratic Republic of Congo

Society

Can Men Help Breastfeed Their Children?

In a tribe in central Africa, male and female roles are practically interchangeable in caregiving to children. Even though their lifestyle might sound strange to the West, it offers important life lessons about who raises children — and how.

The southwestern regions of the Central African Republic and the northern Republic of Congo are home to the Aka, a nomadic tribe of hunter-gatherers who, from a Western point-of-view, are surprising because male and female roles are practically interchangeable.

Though women remain the primary caregivers, what is interesting is that their society has a level of flexibility virtually unknown to ours.

While the women hunt, the men care for the children; while the men cook, the women decide where to settle, and vice versa. This was observed by anthropologist Barry Hewlett, a professor at Washington State University, who lived for long periods alongside the tribe. “It is the most egalitarian human society possible,” Hewlett said in an interview.

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DRC, Where Armed Groups Are Targeting Pregnant Women

In just three months, armed groups in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo killed nearly 500 civilians. The statistics fail to capture the full scale of the suffering, as limited health care access also claims the lives of pregnant women and infants.

ITURI — On a typical day, this village would wind down by 7 p.m.: the animals back in their stables, the men at a local pub huddled over a battery-powered radio, the women at home preparing dinner. But those predictable rhythms came to a halt one night in May 2021, as armed men descended on the village, setting fire to mud houses and murdering the people who lived in them.

Esther Wabiwa fled the region of Fataki, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that night, along with her husband and two young children. They stumbled through the bush for three days, spending their nights sleeping fitfully on wet leaves. Wabiwa, pregnant with her third child at the time, was gripped by contractions. The farther they walked, the stronger they grew.

“This isn’t the time,” her husband said, anxious and overwhelmed. “Can’t he wait a bit longer?”

He couldn’t. “His head was already between my thighs,” says Wabiwa, 29. The baby was born in the middle of the night, delivered on bare, wet ground. “I cut the umbilical cord with my own teeth,” she says. “I didn’t have anything else on me.” Then, fearing that rest would cost them their lives, the family walked for another three days.

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The Latest: Belarus Hijacking, China Storm Kills 21 Marathoners, Tinder After COVID

Welcome to Monday, where Belarus agents hijack a Ryanair flight, a freak storm in China kills 21 marathoners and Bob Dylan gets sung in 11 languages for this 80th birthday. We also feature a Le Monde reportage from Siberia on Nikita Ouvarov, the Russian teenager busted for hanging anti-government posters, who was jailed without a trial for almost a year on charges of "terrorism."

• Belarus accused of hijacking plane to detain activist: Western officials are accusing Belarus agents of forcing a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in its capital of Minsk in order to arrest a prominent opposition figure who was on board.

• Stresa cable car accident: Italy is investigating the causes of an accident that left 14 dead, after a cable car fell Sunday into the side of a mountain near Stresa, in northern Italy.

• 21 runners die in China: Freezing rain, hail and extreme winds killed at least 21 ultramarathon runners participating in a high-altitude race in Gansu, northwestern China.

• COVID-19 update: India passes 300,000 coronavirus deaths, with 26 million recorded cases — second only to the U.S. In Japan, the cities of Tokyo and Osaka look to speed up the vaccination program amid a COVID surge less than two months before the Olympics are slated to begin. Singapore authorities give provisional greenlight to a breathalyzer test that shows within 60 seconds whether someone has been infected. Meanwhile, Argentina has resumed a strict lockdown as cases soar in the country.

• Black Lives Matter activist shot in UK: Sasha Johnson, 27, a leader in the UK's Black Lives Matter movement is in critical condition after being shot in the head at a party in London. Though she was subject to numerous death threats, reports indicate that Johnson was not the intended target of the shooting early Sunday.

• Suu Kyi makes first public appearance since coup: Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi made her first appearance Monday since a Feb. 1 military coup. The 75-year-old pro-democracy icon appeared to be in good health, but her lawyers say she has had no access to newspapers during detention.

• Swab right? Matchmaking apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Match are introducing a new feature that allows users to display on their profiles whether they've been vaccinated for COVID-19 yet.

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OneShot - Gorillas Strike A Pose For Selfie

Looking coooool....This selfie of two park rangers at the Virunga National Park with two female gorillas mimicking human behavior went viral after it was posted on Instagram this week. "Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities!" said the park, which is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fact that the two gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, were walking upright is apparently not so rare. The cool posing on the other hand may be linked to the fact that the pair were rescued and raised by humans.

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EL PAIS

Of Lions And Plastic, Strongmen And Mother Nature

Throughout history, nature has had to bear the consequences of human delusions of grandeur. Among the various and extravagant ways men devised to display their power, wild animals have paid a price that goes beyond the natural hunt for food. In ancient Rome's Colosseum, lions, leopards, and elephants were used — in brutal fashion — to demonstrate the extent and the reach of the Roman Empire's domination over the then known living world.


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Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange

Want To Teach In This Congolese City? Better Get Baptized

There is a religious litmus test for teachers in schools in this eastern stretch of Democratic Republic of Congo.

BENI — During a recent morning mass at a church in this northeast Congolese city, the pastor had a sort of job announcement for his congregants: The local school was looking for a biochemistry teacher and someone who speaks English to look after middle school children. But, he added: "The first condition is to be a fervent Christian and available to fill in for pastoral duties."

Over the past few years, identifying yourself as religious has become the first selection criteria for teachers in many contract schools in this city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange

Electricity And Jobs Help Save Congo’s Wildlife Reserve

MUTWANGA — At the foot of mount Rwenzori, locals erupt in joy when they see their homes lit with electric light bulbs for the first time in their lives. Meanwhile, at the nearby Pic Hotel in Mutwanga, a small village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), tourists are finally returning.

Over the past few years, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation has helped limit poaching and agricultural exploitation of the DRC​"s Virunga National Park.

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Geopolitics
Tanguy Berthemet

Can The Catholic Church Prevent A New Congolese Civil War?

It seems only the Church has managed to curb the ambitions of recent Congolese rulers Mobutu and Joseph Kabila. Now Church leaders are trying to peacefully nudge Kabila from power to avoid the bloodshed many are predicting.

KINSHASA — The deal to ensure peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is sealed, and everybody has signed on. Yet nobody is running out to celebrate. In the DRC, people, politicians and religious leaders know that any crisis resolution is generally considered a temporary thing.

There is little to fault in the text of the recent accord: It addresses all the points of dispute that had led the country to a situation one might call the nadir of its fortunes, if the DRC had not shown time and again that it can always sink further. For the Congolese, the first peaceful handover of power after a coup and a civil war cannot be taken for granted.

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Geopolitics
Matthieu Mokolo

DRC, Environmental Costs Of Congolese Wood Industry

LIPUA LIPUA — He'd been away for some time in Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Équateur province along the Congo River. But when Pierrot Mawambe returns to Lipua Lipua, a fisherman camp on an islet 80 kilometers downstream, he was stunned by the void where huge waka trees used to stand. "Timber harvesters cut them down," a local informs him.

In the past, waka trees (a variety of guibourtia) as well as others like the "monsenge" and the "mokese" (pycnanthus angolensis) hadn't been commercialized. But now, traditional harvesters, like Richard Mobembo, have seen a business opportunity, after this new sort of wood was circulating on the market in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) capital. "When we see it in Kinshasa, we immediately look for it in the forest when we return to the Équateur region," Mobembo said. "We'll sometimes even cut down any tree that's more than 50 centimeters in diameter, even if we don't know their names or qualities. Only when we put it on the market do we realize what it is, and what it's actually worth."

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Emmanuel Lukeba

Congolese Teens Fall Prey To Lure Of Sports Gambling

MATADI — Elie Luemba says her youngest son fooled her and her husband for far too long. "We used to give him a little money every morning to buy himself donuts at school," she says. "But he was actually using the money to bet on sports results with his classmates."

The irony is that Luemba only just recently found out because her son was asked to come with one of his parents to the betting shop to collect his winnings.

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Thaddée Hyawe-Hinyi

How Vatican Funding Cuts Weigh On The Faithful In Africa

Since the gradual reduction of subsidies from Rome to diocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo, vicars have turned to the faithful to ensure survival of parish churches.

IDIOFA — "We're in a slump," is the polite expression from the local priest in this parish in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The cleric notes that with virtually no revenue from church activities, the faithful had long relied on funding from Catholic Church headquarters to keep their parish afloat. "Many thought the help from Rome would last forever, but they think we've grown big enough," the Idiofa priest explains. "Rome still sends subsidies to the dioceses. But they are lower every year."

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LA STAMPA
Paolo Mastrolilli

Congolese Crossroads: Between Cannibalism, Jihad And Hope For Progress

GOMA — "They realized he wasn't one of them because he didn't speak Swahili. Then they pulled him off the bus he was traveling on, stoned him to death, opened his chest and ate his heart." Hearing this story from a high-ranking United Nations official, one immediately asks if this is just a legend of the jungle. "A legend? No, we saw pictures of his roasted head being eaten."

This horrific story took place last October, after one of the massacres committed by the Islamist rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Beni, in eastern Congo. The ADF are a group who formed in Uganda, and whom the government accuses of being linked to the Somali jihadists of al-Shabaab. They invaded Congo with the aim of conquering a land full of natural resources and have spent the past months imposing terror on locals.

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