In the Newsroom

December 3, 2008
Detained by Congo’s secret police

Taylor Krauss shoots footage in eastern Congo. Photo: Michael J. Kavanagh

Taylor Krauss is a producer, video journalist and the founder of Voices of Rwanda. He traveled to Congo with reporter Michael kavanagh to capture footage for the Worldfocus report on the Congo: The story of Pascal and Vestine. Here, he writes about their harrowing detention by Congo’s notorious secret police.

Read Michael Kavanagh’s account of their experience here.

I wasn’t surprised when the secret police stopped me and Michael Kavanagh as we headed out to film in Rutshuru [a town in North Kivu] in October. After all, it wasn’t the first time I had been taken in by Congolese police for “carrying a camera,” and “not having my paperwork in order.”

I knew a padded handshake could solve things in a country where [former president] Mobutu used to tell his citizens to “fend for themselves.” But I also knew that when working with NGOs in Congo, you follow their lead — because without them, you’ve got nothing. On that morning, the International Rescue Committee refused to allow us to bribe the officers, and the officers were furious.

First, they demanded my camera. When it became clear to them that they’d first need to buy a saw to cut off my arm in order to get my camera, they decided to settle for my passport. I never let that out of my grip, either, so they decided they would settle for my tapes.

When I refused, they told us to follow them in the car to headquarters. I was already frustrated we had missed our dawn shots at the IDP [internally displaced persons] camp and had hoped we wouldn’t lose any more time, but knew we potentially had a lot more to lose.

After several grueling hours of questioning, the head of security still wasn’t satisfied. The underlings told him we’d filmed critical military targets and that we were in fact spies from Rwanda.

Of course, they demanded to review my tapes. Not wanting to spend a night in a Congolese jail on the eve of the outbreak of war, I’d already cued up my b-roll [supplemental footage] tape of a sunrise and children playing. They scratched their chins as they watched my recordings of children dancing in front of my camera, but I think they were actually enjoying it.

Ultimately, they decided to take all the tapes. Michael was devastated.

Later that day, I crossed over the border into Rwanda and called Michael. On the way to headquarters, I had hidden the “money” tape — with footage of the United Nations jungle patrols — deep in my bag’s “secret pocket,” and I had just reviewed it.

“Fend for yourself,” the Congolese creed, had come in handy.  We were lucky. Since that time, reporting has become even more difficult and dangerous.

Sorry - there are no sunrises.

- Taylor Krauss

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Comments

5 comments

#5

It’s the most important stories that are the most difficult to tell. Kudos to Taylor and everyone else who made this possible. Please keep it up.

The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma tries to support and help promote journalists doing this kind of work; if you were moved by this story I invite you to take a look at our website: http://www.dartcenter.org. I’ve also just done a write-up of this series on our blog:
http://www.dartcenter.org/dart_center_blog/2008/12/rape-as-weapon-of-war.html.

#4

[...] a human face to Congo’s conflictCongo’s women mutilated, children sent into battleDetained by Congo’s secret policeHumanitarian crisis worsens in CongoQ&A: History, rebels and crisis in eastern CongoUN commander [...]

#3

I am not surprised that you went through that. That´s the difference betweeen CNDP and FARDC. CNDP know the impact a post like this one can have, and they are excellent on PR.
I was in Rutshuru some days ago and made a video of the terrible situation IDPs in Kiwanja are going through. It would be great to see IRC workin there, you are much needed there.
Thanks for informing about the situation in North Kivu.
All the best

an humanitarian worker in Goma, DRC
http://stopthewarinnorthkivu.wordpress.com

#2

I have known Taylor since he was my student in junior high. He had a huge heart and the energy to go with it back them. I am honored to know him.

#1

i know taylor personally and if more people had his passion
and dedication the world would be a saner and nicer place to
live and when taylor wrote to me from his Voice of Rwanda
VoiceOfRwanda.org headquarters in kigale Rwanda that he was going
into the war zone in Congo i told him he is a documentary
filmmaker not a war photographer and there is a big
difference - last night at a panel discussion on the Congo in nyc -
Jimmie Briggs, author of Innocents Lost = and just back last
night from Congo said things are a strange as ever and that
is the sad part its the norm - John Prendergast, author,
filmmaker and co-chair of the Enough Project, said the west
needs to take responsibility for our part of this insanity
with our addiction to minerals from the Congo - Bryan
Mealer, author of All Things Must Fight to Live said its all
about minerals and opportunism even enemies will team up
when its too their advantage to share the spoils - and all
agreed that rape of women as a weapon of war to move whole
villages by raping the woman is being perfected in the Congo -
Eve Ensler, revolutionary playwright and founder of V-Day
said the Congo is the heart of the planet and women are the
heart of the heart and enough is enough and that woman have
to take back their future and organize to stop the fear and
violence and women are beginning to form a womens
revolution in the Congo and else where -

and me i think maybe it is probably the woman who will save
us from ourselves because we men are too consumed with our
ego-tistical ego-testicle gang mentality - power, fear,
propaganda and war games continue and we men are consumed
and fail to recognize that the future is endangered not only
in the Congo but all over the world - i believe that the
people in power the politicians job is to feed our addiction
to fear even though they say one thing and do another and
preach peace and harmony and they actually relish and
benefit by fear - we are addicted to fear and intimidation -
well some food for thought - geo geller

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