“Anyone who says they’re doing this only for noble reasons, not because it’s interesting, is being disingenuous. Objectively, this work is fascinating.”

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Episode notes

Lewis is a researcher and advocate who’s worked in some of the toughest environments around over the last decade, often in the immediate aftermath of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This interview touches on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, and Burundi.

We get into both the practicalities of “doing” human rights, and the personal journey that’s entailed.

Topics discussed:

[03:15] How Lewis talks about his job, people’s reactions, and the limited presence of Central Africa in the Western imagination

[05:55] Working with community radio in the DR Congo, the advantages of lax security rules, and the “flag raising racket”

[12:55] Why Human Rights Watch was appealing as a next step, what the day-to-day looked like, and why it remains “fascinating” ten years later

[21:00] Keeping a sense of optimism and/or perspective despite unambiguously bad trends in the DRC, CAR and Burundi.

[29:30] A walk-through a few career “highlights” with investigation and advocacy in Burundi and the C.A.R.

[35:25] What it takes to have longevity in the human rights sector.

[39:00] Hopes and disappointments in the Central African Republic over the last five years, what did and didn’t go right.

[47:25] Stories from the road in C.A.R. and the criticality of encountering different perspectives, especially ones that don’t usually get captured.

[1:03:50] Constructing a sustainable career in human rights, navigating changes in responsibilities, and pulling back from front-line research and advocacy.