This month in Dispatches Chip Somodevilla looks at American Catholics and their welcome of Pope Benedict XVI, Andrew McConnell reports on the continuing calamity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Stewart Cook brings us face to face with the Canadian seal hunt.
During the pope's visit Chip Somodevilla decided to spend time with people who were the most excited about seeing him. The enthusiasm of the crowds was palpable and can certainly be seen in his image of the woman standing outside Yankee Stadium with outstretched arms.
Andrew McConnell traveled to visit members of the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda) at a jungle camp in the rain forests of Congo, a region of Africa still suffering mightily in the aftermath of regional wars and internal ethnic conflicts. A Belgian colony for decades, it was named the Belgian Congo from 1908-1960, Zaire from 1965-1996, and is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"To understand what is happening here, you have to go back more than a decade, when the genocide that claimed nearly a million lives in neighboring Rwanda spilled over into Congo. Since then, the Congolese army, foreign-backed rebels, and home-grown militias have been fighting each other over power and this land, which has some of the world's biggest deposits of gold, copper, diamonds, and tin. The United Nations was called in and today their mission is the largest peacekeeping operation in history." (CBSnews.com, Jan. 13, 2008).
Hundreds of thousands have died and continue to die of preventable diseases because of the collapse of the health-care system. The Congo's instability is not helped by the staggering number of countries and groups involved in its affairs at various times, including: Rwandan Hutus, Congolese Tutsis, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Chad, Nambia and Zimbabwe.
Stewart Cook covered the Canadian seal hunt, a controversial enterprise. The 2008 Canadian harp seal hunt kill quota was set at 275,000 – 5,000 more seals than last year's quota. He set out with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to cover the hunt again this year: a highly protected, government-backed affair. Covering these kinds of events for humanitarian and environmental groups can be very risky and Cook has had his share of harrowing experiences. His compelling images are unforgettable.