Fleeing war in DR Congo to find ‘war’ in Brazil’s favelas

Fleeing war in DR Congo to find ‘war’ in Brazil’s favelas

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – When war came to his town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), footballer Luta Espoir-Babou says he saw two babies barbecued and eaten.

The 23-year-old says he was once told if he did not vote for President Joseph Kabila, he would be killed.

He fled to Angola in 2008.

Seven years later, he stowed himself away in the hold of a cargo ship for 45 days to reach Brazil.

Now he lives in the Cinco Bocas favela, or shanty town, in Rio de Janeiro, which is fought over by two gangs.

Shootouts are common and he is more afraid for his life here in Brazil than he was back in Africa.

“I was scared in Congo, but only during times of war,” he says. “Here the war is always happening, and it is happening below my window.”

The ongoing turmoil of war, disease and malnutrition has claimed the lives of 5.4 million people in DRC, more than any other conflict since World War Two, a study by the International Rescue Committee found.

Kabila has held power despite his mandate expiring in November 2016, leading to prolonged instability.

The volatility had led to the displacement of five million people, with 675,000 of those fleeing for refuge in other countries, according to the UNHCR.

Even more than 6,437km (4,000 miles) away in Rio de Janeiro, the effect is being felt.

More Congolese – more than 650 – are awaiting asylum in the city than any other nationality, according to the Catholic relief charity Caritas. 

More than 940 have already been granted refugee status, Caritas reported. 

Congolese refugees in Brazil cry during the wake of their friend Congoles Godar, who died in a car accident [Fabio Teixeira/Al Jazeera] 

As well as the challenge – familiar

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