This morning, as it is the norm, I stood by the newsstand alongside the railway line to catch a glimpse of the headlines in the dailies. I started with the Daily Nation, then the Standard before ending with The Star, obviously. Considering the messages of political alliances on the headlines, I did not spend much time on any of the newspapers. My eyes roved to the pages of the Nation a woman had bought and was busy scanning the pages, as I followed. Then GADO’s cartoon caught my eyes. On getting closer and begging to have a look at the cartoon, the woman complied. Immediately, I could tell that today’s was not an ordinary cartoon.
In a snapshot, the cartoon depicts male representatives of the United Nations, United States, European Union, Rwanda, Uganda and China in a boardroom with a wounded woman representing the Democratic Republic of Congo seated on the floor of the boardroom, apparently distraught, wailing. To add sense to the picture, GADO introduces some text in which the UN representative is advising his male counterparts “We need an agreeable formula for taking turns without fighting and hurting ourselves.” To me, this is the point the cartoonist has gone overboard.
The use of the phrase “taking turns” hints that GADO is insinuating that the men in this boardroom are raping the woman who is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ostensibly, the rapists have been doing their act haphazardly, until they realized that they are risking fighting and injuring each other, the point at which the UN came to their rescue by proposing a more systematic way of raping Congo. How sad. Nobody is blind to the happenings at the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially on the eastern side of the mineral rich country, and the speculation that neighboring countries could be fanning the state of anarchy.
Personally, I do not dispute the fact that should Rwanda and Uganda be contributing in the fighting in Congo, then the strongest terms possible should be used to condemn these neighbors. Besides, I agree that if the international community and the multinational organizations are doing nothing to end the situation in Congo, then they are as good as warming to the fire of the conflict. And as such the UN, US, EU, China deserve condemnation in the strongest terms possible. My worry is GADOs obsession with the use of the woman, and especially cognizant of the gender stereotypes forming the premise of the cartoonist.
Portrayal of the distraught woman in the cartoon indicates her vulnerability in light of the salivating men. This confirms the assertion that women are naturally weak, in relation to their male counterparts. More importantly, the cartoonist is implying that women are not smart enough to be in the same position as men in the society. In addition, the caption in this cartoon indicates that women are only there to meet the sexual desires of men, hence the planning of the raping ordeal.
Conspicuously, the cartoonist has depicted some countries as responsible for the situation in Congo. This confirms the rumors that Rwanda and Uganda are playing a major role in polarizing the borders with Congo so that they benefit from smuggled minerals. As much as this sounds possible, to me it does not sound realistic. I know for sure that warring forces in Eastern Congo are causing dismay to the Congolese by raping and killing civilians and looting property. The forceful disarmament of the FDLR by the Congolese militia, for instance, is a wrong and dangerous strategy. To this extent, it is common knowledge to understand that the Congolese themselves are allowing the situation to degenerate by failing to apply appropriate strategies in addressing their conflicts. If GADO wanted to capture this reality using the distraught woman, he should have shown her exposing some part of her thighs, perhaps an indication that she is whetting the sexual appetite of the lusty men.
United Nations has already send peacekeepers in Congo. But according to the cartoonist, they are not doing anything meaningful. Interestingly, the cartoon portrays the representative of Rwanda, perhaps, judging from the grandeur, the president, as a big facilitator of the conflict in Congo. This is by having him wear black. Such insinuations are untrue, but serve to confirm what the layman on the ground believes.
GADO is one of my respected cartoonists, and he will remain, for creativity and agitation for social courses. For instance, he deserves much credit for one of his caricatures in the social media that did not get past the editors of the mainstream media depicting a section of the Kenyan legislators taking turns raping an emaciated cow, representing Kenyans, after milking it dry. Perhaps because of the strength of the agitation, the changes that the legislators wanted to sneak into the Constitution did not see the light of day. Nevertheless, in today’s cartoon, even at the wake of the gravity of the situation in Congo, the cartoonist has gone overboard, confirming a stereotype here and a rumor there.