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Don’t forget the Congolese who helped tell the Congo story

When Western  journalists report from the front lines in Africa, the reader may not be aware how much these reporters depend on Africans as sources, guides, translators, fixers, and intermediaries.

The curtain has just parted a bit to see one of these locals, a Congolese hero who helped get the story of the Congo out to the rest of the world (quoting CPJ):

Pastor Marrion P’Udongo has been called the “Oskar Schindler” of Congo…In 2003, as militia sacked the town of Bunia in northeastern Congo and executed hundreds of their ethnic rivals in the streets, the pastor sheltered scores of people in his home and miraculously guided them to safety. …In order to finance {his} mission and support his family, Pastor Marrion has worked as a translator and fixer for the world’s leading news agencies who cover the conflict… If you’ve read a story about Congo in recent years, or seen one on television, the pastor probably helped produce it.

The reason for the belated recognition of Pastor Marrion is that he is now dying, and journalists who have worked with him have started a fund to finance a kidney transplant to save his life.

In a dizzying role reversal, Nick Kristof kindly agreed to ME interviewing HIM on this topic. He did not know Pastor Marrion, but he said:

local interpreters are unbelievably important absolutely everywhere in the world, from Afghanistan to Congo. The Western reporter gets the credit and the prizes, but the hardest work and greatest risk is typically undertaken by the local interpreter. And then we have some protection because we’re foreign, and in any case we bounce out, while the locals stay behind and must deal with disgruntled warlords and governments when documentaries/articles come out. Local interpreters truly are the heroes of international reporting, especially in more dangerous places like Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Ivory Coast.  So I hope the upshot is not only a new kidney for Paster Marrion but also a greater appreciation for the courage and contribution of people like him.

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