In the past few months, more than 250 people have been killed in massacres in the towns of Béni and Butembo, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Locals were therefore shocked when people started selling calendars featuring bloody photos from these brutal massacres
Our Observers reported that these calendars first appeared for sale in the cities of Béni and Butembo in November. The calendar shows photos of blood-soaked bodies and of ceremonies commemorating the dead.
While most of the photos are authentic -- some were even published in previous articles on FRANCE 24’s Observers website -- others have nothing to do with the recent killings and come from other tragedies that took place as far away as Kenya or Nigeria.
"Most of the local residents don’t have internet and are seeing these pictures for the first time"
These calendars were first marketed by a Congolese man from Butembo. He had them printed in Kampala, Uganda for about 100 Congolese francs (10 euro cents) each. Street vendors were selling the calendars in the streets of Béni and Butembo for 500 Congolese francs (45 euro cents), so they cut themselves a little margin [Editor’s note: according to blogger Umbo Salama, some of the vendors were students saving money for school].
These calendars were very successful, especially because most of the locals don’t have an internet connection and they were seeing these images for the first time. Some people who purchased calendars considered it a way to commemorate the victims.
"The man who designed them often sells calendars based on themes from the North Kivu news"
The calendars only circulated for about two weeks, before some locals complained about the violent images that had not been blurred. Authorities arrested the Congolese man, and said that selling the calendars was both a “provocation and vindication” for the massacres. They confiscated his stock and destroyed the remaining calendars. From that day forward, anyone in possession of one of these calendars was stopped by the police. Now, it is almost impossible to find one.
I know this salesman who first marketed the calendars well and he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. He often sells calendars based on themes from the local news. In the beginning of the year, made calendars with photos of Colonel Mamadou Ndala, a well-known Congolese military man who was killed in a rebel ambush on January 2, 2014. But he clearly had a commercial aim for his calendars and never tried to give any proceeds to the victims’ families.
At the end of November, the mayors of Béni and Butembo banned the sale and the display of all images concerning the massacres. According to our Observers, the salesman who first sold these calendars has been in prison for two weeks. A huge cache of these calendars was found in the possession of the secretary of civil society in Béni last week. He was also briefly taken in for questioning before being released.
The most recent massacre occurred on Sunday, December 7. The assailants have not yet been identified but the Congolese authorities accuse the Ugandan rebel group ADF-Nalu.
This article was written with FRANCE 24 journalist Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).