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Phil Moore November 27, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Congo, DR Congo.
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moore_cong
Congolese army soldiers celebrate immediately after recapturing the town of
Bunagana
from M23 rebels, DRC 2013

Phil Moore (b. 1982, U.K.) studied Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, specializing in Artificial Intelligence. Having worked for a year as a research associate in AI, and then three years as a web-designer in Paris, France, he set-out to make a career in photojournalism. His first work was covering the South Sudanese referendum for independence in 2011, and since then has covered the Arab Spring in Libya and Syria, the M23 rebellion in the DRC, and various elections across the African continent. He has worked extensively with Agence France-Presse (AFP), and contributes to magazines such as Der Spiegel and Vanity Fair (Italy), as well as daily newspapers, including the Times of London, the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde and Libération. He is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, predominantly covering East Africa.

About the Photograph:

“I had been documenting the rise, and subsequent fall, of the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo since their inception in April 2012. The early days of the rebellion were marked by rapid advances and victories over what was seen as a demoralized and disorganized national army. In July last year, the tide shifted, and the army started recapturing rebel-territory, pushing them back to the hills around the Ugandan border. When I took this photograph on October 30, 2013, I was with an advance party of government soldiers as they retook Bunagana, the last rebel strong-hold.”

“The previous year, I had spent weeks in Bunagana as it shifted from government control to rebel hands, crossing the border every night to sleep in neighboring Uganda. The town—and its few hotels—had emptied due to the fighting. I remember a United Nations commander coming and telling the remaining townspeople that his troops would “never let Bunagana fall to the rebels”. Two months later, I stood in the same spot as M23 militia men milled around. It took fifteen months for the army to recapture it. On my early trips to Bunagana, it was very difficult to document the conflict. The government had formally prohibited journalists from crossing over into rebel territory, which we therefore did surreptitiously. I remember one morning, when the army had been caught off-guard by an early raid. They raised their rifle butts at me as they filed past, infuriated by the sight of my cameras documenting their defeat.”

“The soldiers recapturing Bunagana were a world away from this aggression that I had previously experienced. The group pictured above were part of a Chinese-trained group of commandos. They had recaptured the town maybe 45 minutes earlier, and were now singing and celebrating with break dancing and Karate demonstrations as gunshots rang out in the surrounding hills, all the while chanting ‘Commando Chinois!’ (Chinese commandos, in French.) The residents of Bunagana flooded back over the border from Uganda, where they had taken refuge. At first glance, this image is one of aggression: soldiers and fists. The expression of the guy on the ground is slightly ambiguous, but his fake cry was shrouded in delight of their victory.”

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