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Former militant turned peacebuilder brings ‘comic’ relief to Congo

2013 April 15

DRC Comics

Out of the deadliest trenches rise some of the most brilliant peace-builders.  During the ‘90s, violence plagued the Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), pulling Joseph Muhaya into the conflict.  After hearing about Search’s work, he started looking for non-violent ways to end conflict.  He is now the author of the wildly popular comic books “Mopila” and the widely known character Captain January.  A militia fighter turned creative peace-builder. Here is Joseph’s story:

I have lived through troubling times, through many conflicts since I was born.  Son of a tribal chief, I was born at a time when colonial leaders would force rebellious tribal chiefs into exile.  When I was two years old, my grandfather, who was the Chief of Buloho in Bunyakiri (South Kivu), suffered this fate.  He was sent into exile in Chambucha in Walikale (North Kivu).  When I was not yet 11, my family and a large part of our community were also exiled for nine months to a neighboring village.  The colonial regime put in place a chief from Kabare in South Kivu, a source of conflict in my region to this very day.

Since our independence in 1960, our country has never seen the end of wars and secession movements.  From 1974 to 1994, I was a teacher, happily married and father to 8 children.  When large-scale fighting broke out again in 1996, I fled to the forest and joined a local Mai-Mai militia movement.  While we were still fighting in the forest, I heard of “Centre Lokolé” (the name of SFCG  in the DRC).  They were broadcasting radio programs on what was happening at Sun City, where an agreement was signed that ended the Second Congo War.  I arrived in Bukavu in 2006, where I heard that Centre Lokolé was looking for writers.  I had been a writer from a young age, and I even wrote two novels while fighting in the forest.  I was hired.

I have worked for SFCG for many years now, and they have given me the opportunity to contribute to peace-building in my country and to develop my own outlook.  I pour my heart and soul into covering the war because so much of my life was spent in the shadow of war and conflict.  I write radio soap operas like Jirani ni Ndugu (My neighbor is my brother) and Lobi Mokolo ya Sika (Tomorrow is a New Day), and of course, comic books.  My mission is to plead with my brothers and sisters, via my work, to put down the war ax and come together at the same table to build a more peaceful future.  I hope that all of those who read or listen to my work feel touched and are ready to make a change, to put down weapons of war and pick up the tools of peace and development.

DRC comic crowd

Search has already distributed over 500,000 comic books, and we are flooded with requests for more.  The name of his corrupt character Captain January is so widely known that it has entered the military vernacular, with soldiers using it as a way to warn colleagues who harass civilians.   To learn more about the comic books, click here.

Do you have any ideas to creatively end violent conflict?  We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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