Hiroshi Aoki

“Fated encounter”

Aoki has been reporting on conflict areas in Africa since 2006.

While reporting in the Central African Republic, which is still undergoing a civil war, Aoki met a man.
The man named Richard, the leader of the Christian militia group "Anti-Balaka."
As Christians, they were persecuted in this country, which was under the control of the Islamic armed group “Seleka.”
Richard's village, like other areas, was attacked by Seleka.
He was the only one survived.
One day he stands up alone from the forest, armed with a weapon to liberate this area from Seleka control.
People gather to support Richard's cause. And then a militia group, ``Anti-Balaka,'' was formed and continued to fight.

Their battles lead to victory after victory, and they liberate the western area, including the capital city of Bangui.
Then, and after liberating the capital, something unexpected happens.
Richard receives a direct request from the government of the Central African Republic, ``We want you to disarm for the sake of a peaceful future for this country.''

Richard was think deeply and suffered.
Their answer was to accept the request to disarm, and as the civil war raged on, they quietly laid down their weapons.

Aoki met Richard through their relationship as “photographer” and “interviewee.”
Having just met him, he didn't open up at all, and even in front of the camera, he glared at Aoki with sharp eyes.
Because he knew that the turmoil in this country was not just their own problem, but that they were suffering because of the interests of other countries.
He strongly criticized the way foreigners thought only of their own interests, and he strongly refused to open up to them.
Still, Aoki is drawn to Richard's overwhelming charm and has a strong desire to photograph Richard.
Aoki told him over and over again what exactly wanted to express by photograph.

Richard gradually began to open up to Aoki.
And before they knew it, they had become best friends.
Then one day he told Aoki everything he had never told anyone.
It was a painful, sad, and an unimaginable his past.

The PEACEis project is continuing peace activities with Richard and local people to end the civil war.

The story has just begun...

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