“Mama Colonel” (“Maman Colonelle”)
Meet Munyole Sikujuwa Honorine
Documentary filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi follows the work of a senior Congolese policewoman in charge of stopping sexual violence and physical abuse against women and children in her African country. We know that war and ills within society always leave behind a multiplicity of victims. Some battle scars are visible while others are not. “Mama Colonel” shows us the challenges of helping victims of domestic violence, rape and child abuse. We meet Colonel Munyole Sikujuwa Honorine, a widowed mother of seven and a commander of a police unit for the protection of children and women against sexual violence. We see Colonel Honorine’s efforts at curtailing social malaises in a society that upholds witch-hunts and disregards rehabilitation for rape victims. Following a recent transfer from Bukavu to Kisangani, we accompany her through a series of meetings, raids and campaigns. The documentary’s full focus is on
Honorine whose activities draw attention to the plight of victims of heart-wrenching stories of abandonment and ostracism. While Honorine is altruistic and enthusiastic about her duties, these qualities are not shared by many. Seeing the deplorable state of her official residence, it is obvious how much currency her government places on her unit and its duties. Her intention of involving the residents of Kisangani in achieving her goals is resisted by some. She also has to deal with hostility from the physically disabled casualties of war who consider themselves the “real victims” chiefly because they are recognized by government.
The way Honorine handles of the challenges ahead of her and her unit show her dedication to affecting positive change in debauched surroundings. What is ironic is that a society that is eager to condemn its children to prophets over allegations of witchcraft is unwilling to contribute solutions to its communal problems. The documentary is as much homage to Honorine as it is a criticism of the society she has to deal with. We see that there is some hope for Kisangani’s neglected and abused even though society is reluctant to accept them.
This Congolese-French co-production begins with Honorine getting ready preparing to leave for a new position in Kisangani. What appears to be a promotion turns out to be a daunting challenge for her and it also reveals the dire social circumstances in which the country remains stuck years after its latest deadly civil war.
The problems are evident right from the get-go, as she battles with the men supposedly paid to help her move her belongings to her new city. Their ineptness is mirrored almost from the start in her new workplace. Kisangani is Congo’s third largest municipality yet when she meets the rest of her team, half the officers don’t bother to show, while those that do are motley crew who really do not seem to care about what they are supposed to do.
Yet, Honorine is not fazed by the useless men hanging around, or by the horrible adults she has to confront to save yet another child. Hamadi manages to allude to the dire circumstances in his country by capturing the dismaying attitudes of the people and the “fake victims.” The common belief is that children deserve violence and confinement because they are practicing “witchcraft.”
The good deeds and galling crimes highlight how the Congo’s social structure and there is also the specter of past wars still lingering above all.