Redemption Songs: Portraits in Black and White

Abducted as sex slaves; soldiers by force and by choice: A dozen scarred in childhood by Congo’s wars remember, in their own words.

Reveal
· 4 min read

How does a child survive war and enter the civilian world?

They were children or teenagers when they were ensnared by one of the dozens of rebel groups that have battled for supremacy in eastern Congo.

Now, with Congolese and United Nations forces holding out hope for an end to the perpetual battles with rebels, they are being retrained for civilian life.

In two series of portraits, this one in black and white and a second in color, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Larry C. Price and The Center for Investigative Reporting, in partnership with Medium, follow 12 young adults scarred by violence as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

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“In my dreams, sometimes I see people shooting people.
Sometimes I see myself walking over dead bodies.
And after dreaming about it, I feel very scared.”
James Black

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“We don’t know each other’s stories because we never share them. I can say there is no trust. I don’t know what is in the mind of my colleague.
I don’t know what he would do with my secrets.”
Mugoli Shukuru

Read her story »


“It’s like I’m watching a film of what happened to me.
I see blood, blood, blood.”
Gode Musore

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“All of them wanted to have sex with me. I suffered a lot, and I still suffer when I remember.”
Brigitte Bazibuhe

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“If God helps me, I can have a better life and get an education. But in the end, if I don’t get an education, I think I will go back.”
Vainqueur Faida

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“I was not afraid to die because I saw death so near me.”
Namegabe Baguma

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“We joined the militia because there was a war
in our village, and we saw there was no other way.”
Nsii Maombi

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“I got trained, but it didn’t help me a lot after. In our country, getting a job is very rare. If I was able to get a job, I would never think of going back to the militia.”
Saddam Balingine

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“The men would come to the house, pick a girl and
take her outside. They were coming every day.”
Tatiana Lola

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“Things happen that you can’t control. All you can do is pray to God.”
Didier Asumani

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“I wasn’t at rest after that moment, and at night,
I would dream about the soldier I had hit.”
Nathalie Kasaki Banyanga

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“I think it has begun to disappear from my memory.
Now that I am working, I am doing my best to forget.”
Raphael Mutimanwa

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This story is part of the series Redemption Songs produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in the San Francisco Bay Area, in partnership with Medium.

The series was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee. Reporter Richard C. Paddock can be reached at rpaddock@cironline.org. Photographer Larry C. Price can be reached at lcprice@mac.com.

The nonprofit Eastern Congo Initiative provided logistical support for this project. It also provides funding for Let Africa Live and ETN.

CIR Special Report: Redemption Songs

How does a child survive war and enter the civilian world?

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    Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting produces award-winning investigative reporting that makes a difference. Learn more at revealnews.org

    CIR Special Report: Redemption Songs

    How does a child survive war and enter the civilian world?