Last week, our team received word that we lost a dear friend and hero in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who has inspired us and our work to end violence and exploitation in central Africa.

On February 9th, a Congolese matriarch and hero, Bernadette Wilimangu, passed away. Bernadette, who had come to be known by her community as Mama Koko (which means great grandmother in Lingala) was a remarkably courageous and compassionate woman who helped carry her family and community in DR Congo through unimaginable violence at the hands of Joseph Kony’s LRA. Her life has inspired thousands around the world, including our Invisible Children team, to remain committed to ending the violence of armed groups like the LRA in central Africa. Our deepest condolences go out to Mama Koko’s family and friends, and to the entire community in Dungu, DRC, that is feeling the impact of her loss.

Mama Koko was a pillar of strength and hope in her community, and very fittingly became the subject of a book by author and activist, Lisa Shannon, entitled Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen.

Mama Koko, her family, and her community lost dozens of loved ones to one of the LRA’s most violent and brutal attacks in the DRC. For months afterward, with a group of LRA camped just outside of town, Mama Koko and her community endured the consequences of living in constant fear of LRA attacks. However, like many others facing violence at the hands of the LRA and other armed groups, Mama Koko bravely persevered with dignity, grace, and compassion — caring for those around her even as she struggled to survive herself.

We are deeply grateful to have known Mama Koko and we are proud to continue working in partnership with members of her family and community, who are pursuing peace and safety for their country with the same strength, resilience, and wisdom that characterized Mama Koko.

Learn more about Mama Koko’s life and legacy by purchasing a copy of Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen.