Category: Democractic Republic of the Congo

Fertile land the prize that could reignite ethnic conflict in DR Congo

By admin, August 26, 2010 5:06 pm

Fertile land the prize that could reignite ethnic conflict in DR Congo

Land remains the greatest prize in North Kivu as residents grow uneasy over the return of the Congolese Tutsis from Rwanda

Young CNDP soldiers in the town of Rugare, north of Goma Young CNDP soldiers in the town of Rugare, north of Goma. Photograph: Sean SmithLeaving behind the mass of humanity that is Goma, the dirt road climbs steadily as it switchbacks through the emerald hills. Clear streams run in the valleys, and on the slopes both cows and vegetables grow fat from the lush grass and fertile soil.

For more than a decade North Kivu has been at the centre of the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebel groups’ and foreign armies’ lust for mineral riches is usually cited as one of the main causes of the war.

But high up in the vast Masisi territory on the Rwandan border, 50 miles and several hours’ drive north-west of Goma, the riches are not under the ground. It is the land itself that is the greatest prize.

And now – after a reduction in open conflict, if not civilian suffering – tensions over land have again risen so high that local government officials and rebel groups say they could spark a new round of ethnic conflict.

The friction stems from the planned homecoming of 54,000 Congolese Tutsis, a minority group in eastern Congo, who have been living in camps across the border in Rwanda since the mid-1990s. The repatriation was agreed by the two countries and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) earlier this year.

Aid groups questioned the decision, since military operations against rebels are continuing in North Kivu, and nearly 800,000 people remain internally displaced there. But for many local residents, who have been deeply mistrustful of Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government since it first sent its army across the border in the late 1990s, the fears are not for the refugees’ welfare, but their own.

They believe the refugee numbers have been vastly – and deliberately – exaggerated by Rwanda in an attempt to grab their land and to consolidate the local rule of the CNDP, a powerful Tutsi-dominated rebel group turned political party that controls more of North Kivu than the government.

The fears among ethnic groups such as the Hunde, Nande, Hutu and Nyanga are so strong that some civilians and militias “are arming themselves for when the Tutsis return to try to take their land”, according to one senior government official in Masisi territory.

Meanwhile, the CNDP and Rwanda say the overall refugee figure is well over 100,000 when Congolese Tutsis living outside the camps are taken into account, adding to the confused – and highly combustible – situation.

“I can tell you for sure that if these returns happen now there will be catastrophe,” said Jason Luneno, president of the civil society of North Kivu. “People say they will protect their land until the last drop of blood is spilled.”

The Congolese Tutsis trace their history in North Kivu to before independence from Belgium in the 1960s, when their forebears crossed from Rwanda to escape famine and ethnic clashes, and adopted a new nationality.

But in 1994 the arrival in Congo of fleeing Hutu killers, who had tried to wipe out Rwanda’s Tutsi population, caused many Congolese Tutsis to seek sanctuary back across the border when Paul Kagame’s Tutsi rebel army had taken power and promised safety.

Since then, much of eastern Congo has been in crisis. The Hutu militiamen created a feared rebel group called the FDLR (Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda), which remains the major obstacle to stability in North Kivu.

In time, with backing from Rwanda, the CNDP emerged as a powerful – and wealthy – counterforce, with the stated aim of protecting local Tutsis.

Taxes and control of the illegal charcoal trade yielded – and continue to yield – millions of dollars a year, much of it channelled to powerful Rwandan political and army figures. The same elite also imported many of the cattle – or “vaches sans frontières” as locals describe them – that graze the pastures in Masisi.

Following a peace agreement with the Congolese government, CNDP forces were integrated into the Congolese national army last year. But they retained their command structures, and the party continues to run lucrative parallel administrations across much of North Kivu. Together with the Rwandan government, which claims there are tens of thousands more Congolese Tutsis living outside the camps in Rwanda, the party is leading the push for the refugees’ return.

“The CNDP is following this closely: nothing should prevent our brothers from coming home,” said Rutagarama Ntavutse, leader of the Tutsi community in North Kivu. “The refugees were cow farmers before they left, and had a lot of land. But now people have taken that land. That’s why they don’t want them back.”

But leaders of non-Rwandophone communities in North Kivu tell a different story. Alexis Tussi, chief of the Osso district in Masisi, said many of the refugees who left his area in the 1990s had sold their farms beforehand, so they had no right to the land on their return.

He also claimed that the 54,000 figure used by UNHCR was impossibly high, based on the number of people that fled at the time.

Biiri Ngulu, the king of the Biiri district, further up the road, said that unknown people had recently arrived in his district from Rwanda, claiming to be Congolese refugees, yet they could not speak the local language and did not know the geography. Separate reports from the US-based Refugees International and Enough group earlier this year also mentioned cases of Rwandans falsely claiming to be returning Congolese – a phenomenon that has further raised suspicions among local people.

“War in Masisi always runs around land,” Ngulu said. “So this can create another war.”

During a heated meeting in Goma in July, designed to ease tensions, Rwandan, Congolese and UNHCR officials agreed that traditional leaders from North Kivu would be allowed to travel to the Rwandan camps to verify the refugees’ claims of Congolese nationality.

Salif Kagni, the UNHCR’s co-ordinator in eastern Congo, said that when repatriation did occur, it would be voluntary, and would take place only in areas that were considered safe.

But many wonder where is safe. This week reports emerged of a mass rape and assault against 150 women and children in a town in Walikale, where the FDLR is strong. The ongoing Operation Amani Leo (meaning Peace Today) by the Congolese army, backed by the UN, has succeeded in driving the Hutu rebels away from some of the more populated areas in most other parts of North Kivu.

But in numerous villages in Masisi territory, displaced people said they are still too afraid to go back to their homes.

In her hilltop office in Masisi town, territory administrator Marie-Claire Bangwene Mwavita said the area was still far from secure. The FDLR rebels were less than five miles away. Mai Mai rebel groups – community-based militias – were also a threat, as their integration into the national army had failed, she said.

Indeed, Didier Bitaki, spokesman for all the Mai Mai groups in Congo, warned that a formal repatriation of people from Rwanda would be extremely provocative – and dangerous. “These people [the refugees in Rwanda] are not Congolese. When they lived here they claimed they were Rwandan. Now they want to come back. Repatriation is impossible.”

One area where the refugees might feel safe is the CNDP stronghold of Kitchanga, several hours’ drive from Masisi. Government soldiers – mainly former CNDP rebels – man a roadblock at the town entrance. Others stroll around town with AK-47s and grenade launchers. Many of the non-Tutsi residents look on warily. The soldiers take food from farmers’ fields, and force locals to carry heavy loads for them, according to residents. Now, many fear they will to lose their land if the refugees return with the CNDP’s blessing.

“The soldiers even broke my window to frighten me,” said Etienne Mabudnana, a district chief based in the town, pointing to a shattered pane. “If a chief can be frightened, what about the population?”

Leaked UN report accuses Rwanda of possible genocide in Congo

By admin, August 26, 2010 4:59 pm
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/26/un-report-rwanda-congo-hutus

Unprecedented investigation by human rights commissioner says Hutu deaths ‘cannot be put down to margins of war’

Hutu refugees at UN’s Goma camp The UN’s Goma camp in 1994. The Rwandan army attacked the camp, which was full of Hutu refugees, forcing hundreds of thousands deeper into Zaire. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/CorbisThe United Nations has accused Rwanda of wholesale war crimes, including possibly genocide, during years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An unprecedented 600-page investigation by the UN high commissioner for human rights catalogues years of murder, rape and looting in a conflict in which hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.

A draft version of the report, revealed by Le Monde and expected to be published next month, says the abuses, over a period of seven years and two invasions by Rwanda, amount to “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” because the principal targets of the violence were Hutus, who were killed in their tens of thousands.

Among the accusations is that Rwandan forces and local allies rounded up hundreds of men, women and children at a time and butchered them with hoes and axes. On other occasions Hutu refugees were bayoneted, burned alive or killed with hammer blows in large numbers.

It is the first time the UN has published such forthright allegations against Rwanda, a close ally of Britain and the US.

The Rwandan government reacted angrily to the report today, dismissing it as “amateurish” and “outrageous” after reportedly attempting to pressure the UN not to publish it by threatening to pull out of international peacekeeping missions. Rwanda’s Tutsi leaders will be particularly discomforted by the accusation of genocide when they have long claimed the moral high ground for bringing to an end the 1994 genocide in their own country. But the report was welcomed by human rights groups, which called for the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes.

The report covers two periods: Rwanda’s 1996 invasion of the country then called Zaire in pursuit of Hutu soldiers and others who fled there after carrying out the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, and a second invasion two years later that broadened into a regional war involving eight countries.

Rwanda’s attack on Zaire in 1996 was initially aimed at clearing the vast UN refugee camps around Goma and Bukavu, which were being used as cover by Hutu armed forces to continue the war against the new Tutsi-led government in Kigali.

Hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million Hutus in eastern Zaire were forced back to Rwanda. Many more, including men who carried out the genocide but also large numbers of women and children, fled deeper into Zaire. They were pursued and attacked by the Rwandan army and a Zairean rebel group sponsored by Kigali, the AFDL.

The UN report describes “the systematic, methodical and premeditated nature of the attacks on the Hutus [which] took place in all areas where the refugees had been tracked down”.

“The pursuit lasted months and, occasionally, humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, notably in the eastern province, thus depriving them of things essential to their survival,” the report said.

“The extent of the crimes and the large number of victims, probably in the several tens of thousands, are demonstrated by the numerous incidents detailed in the report. The extensive use of non-firearms, particularly hammers, and the systematic massacres of survivors after camps were taken prove that the number of deaths cannot be put down to the margins of war. Among the victims were mostly children, women, old and ill people.”

The report goes on to say that “the systematic and widespread attacks have a number of damning elements which, if proved before a competent court, could be described as crimes of genocide”.

The UN also adds that while Kigali has permitted Hutus to return to Rwanda in large numbers, that did not “rule out the intention of destroying part of an ethnic group as such and thus committing a crime of genocide”.

The Zairean army collapsed in the face of the invasion and Rwanda seized the opportunity to march across the country and overthrow the longstanding dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Laurent Kabila was installed as president. He promptly changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Rwanda invaded again in 1998 after accusing the new regime of continuing to support Hutu rebels. The following five years of war drew in armies from eight nations as well as 21 rebel groups in a conflict that quickly descended in to mass plunder of the DRC’s minerals as well as a new wave of war crimes.

The UN report accuses Angolan forces of using the cover of the war to attack refugees from Angola’s conflict-plagued Cabinda province who had fled to the DRC. Angola is accused of “executing all those they suspected of colluding with their enemies”. Angolan soldiers also raped and looted, the UN investigation said.

International human rights groups welcomed the UN report and said it should be used to bring the accused to trial. “This is a very important report,” said Human Rights Watch. “We hope that it can form the basis for ending the impunity that has protected the people responsible for some of these crimes.”

The UN’s damning conclusions will prove hugely embarrassing to Rwanda, which is attempting to project itself as a rapidly modernising state that has put its brutal recent history behind it.

President Paul Kagame’s office attempted to dismiss the report. “It’s an amateurish NGO job, and it’s outrageous,” said a spokeswoman, Yolande Makolo. “Nobody reasonable believes that it’s helpful to anybody. The countries mentioned in the draft report have rejected it and will continue to reject it.”

Makolo did not comment on reports that Kagame last month warned the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that Rwanda would pull its troops out of peacekeeping missions in Darfur and elsewhere if the report was made public. Le Monde said that threat was reiterated in a letter to Ban by Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the leaked draft was not the final version and the report to be published next month had undergone revisions.

“It’s only a draft from about two months ago and the proper final version will come up very soon,” he said.

But if there are substantial differences, the UN is likely to stand accused of bowing to pressure from Rwanda.

Atrocities detailed in the UNHCR document seen by Le Monde

Kinigi, 7 December 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR killed nearly 310 civilians, many of them women and children. The troops had accused the local population, mostly Hutu, of sheltering Interahamwe [Hutu paramilitaries, who] had already left the village. At first the troops sought to reassure the civilians [whom they gathered together] in several buildings, including the adventist church and the primary school. In the afternoon, troops entered these buildings and killed the villagers with hoes or axes to the head.”

Luberizi, 29 October 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundi's armed forces] killed around 200 male refugees. The victims were part of a group of refugees told by the troops to regroup so that they could be repatriated to Rwanda. The troops separated the men from the rest of the group and killed them with bayonets or bullets. The bodies were then buried in mass graves [near to] the church.”

Bwegera, 3 November 1996 “They burned alive 72 Rwandan refugees in Cotonco (cotton company) headquarters, one kilometre from the village.”

Mutiko, December 1996 “Special units from the AFDL/APR started to hunt down refugees, killing several hundred. Once they had been intercepted at barriers put up by the troops, the victims were given food and told to get into UN lorries waiting at the exit of the village. The victims were then taken out on to the road, then killed with blows to the head with canes, hammers and axes. The troops encouraged the local population to take part in the killings.”

“There Is Almost Total Impunity for Rape in Congo”

By admin, June 28, 2010 12:06 pm

Q&A
“There Is Almost Total Impunity for Rape in Congo”
Jennie Lorentsson interviews MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict


UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28, 2010 (IPS) – Sexual violence against women has become part of modern warfare around the world. In some countries, women cannot even go out to draw water without fear of being attacked and raped.

On Apr. 1, Margot Wallström became the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Her job is to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Security Council.

The appointment of Wallström, currently a vice president of the European Commission, comes amidst continued reports of gender violence, including rape and sexual abuse both locally and by humanitarian aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers, mostly in war zones and in post-conflict societies.

The incidents of sexual attacks, both on women and children, have come from several countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Haiti, Burundi, Guinea and Liberia.

One of Wallström’s first assignments was a trip to the DRC, a nation she calls “the rape capital” of the world. Excerpts from the interview with Wallström follow.

Q: Tell us about your trip.

A: Congo has attracted attention in the media [as a place that is suffering] systematic rape in war. One statistic quoted is 200,000 rapes since the beginning of the war 14 years ago, and it is certainly an underestimate.

When in Congo, I met government representatives and particularly women who had been raped and violated. It was interesting but also disappointing – nothing is getting better and more and more civilians are committing rapes.

But I should be fair and say that there has been progress, the government has introduced laws against rape, it has a national plan and there is political will. There is a lot to do to implement the legislation, but now there is an ambitious legal ground to stand on to be implemented by the police, judiciary and health care.

Q: What are the roots of the problem?

A: The sexual violence in Congo is the result of the war between the many armed groups. To put women in the front line has become a part of modern warfare.

Men often feel threatened in times of conflict and stay inside, but the women have to go out and get water and firewood and go to the fields to find food. In many cases they’ll be the first to be attacked. Especially if there is no paid national army that can protect civilians, rape is a part of the looting and crimes against the innocent. In addition, there is almost total impunity for rape in the Congo.

Q: The U.N. has its own force, MONUC, in Congo to protect civilians. What is being done to help women?

A: MONUC has had to adjust their operations after the conditions in the country. For example, MONUC has special patrols which escort women to health care clinics and markets.

Q: The U.N. and the Congolese government are discussing when the U.N. should leave the country. What would happen if the U.N. left the Congo now?

A: We have reason to be worried if the United Nations would leave the Congo. It is still unsettled in some parts of the country and the U.N. provides logistics for many of the NGOs operating in the country, and they rely in the U.N.

What is happening right now is that [the government] wants to show that it can protect the country itself – it’s a part of the debate on independence.

Q: How do feel when you hear about U.N. peacekeepers committing atrocities?

A: Just one example is too much. It destroys our confidence in the U.N.’s ability to do great things.

Q: There is criticism that the U.N. is a bureaucratic and inflexible organisation. Do you agree?

A: In every large organisation there is critisism like this. After 10 years in the European Commission, I can recognise such trends here, there is always. But basically, there are high hopes and great confidence in the U.N. and the energy and passion that exists for the U.N. is very useful.

Q: The Security Council has promised to focus even more on the issue of violence against women. Which countries should be focused on?

A: Congo is a given, also Darfur and a number of other countries in Africa. We will also focus on Liberia, where it is more a post-conflict society which has been brutalised and where rape is the most common offence. We cannot be in all countries with conflicts, we will comply with the Security Council agenda. This is a problem that not only exists in Africa.

Q: What can your staff do on site?

A: Our team of legal experts can help a country to establish a modern legislation. Impunity is the foundation of the problem, the women have to go with guilt and the men go free. We must try to understand how such a culture is created and how it can be a method of warfare. Then we can stop it.

(END)

My cancer is arbitrary. Congo’s atrocities are very deliberate

By admin, June 14, 2010 5:42 pm

My cancer is arbitrary. Congo’s atrocities are very deliberate

Illness and treatment only reinforced my determination to shake global indifference to the terrible violence in Congo

Some people may think that being diagnosed with uterine cancer, followed by an extensive surgery that led to a month of debilitating infections, rounded off by months of chemotherapy, might get a girl down. But, in truth, this has not been my poison. This has not been what pulses through me late at night and keeps me pacing and awake. This has not been what throws me into moments of unbearable darkness and depression.

Cancer is scary, of course, and painful. It tends to interrupt one’s entire life, throw everything into question and push one up against that ultimate dimension and possibility of dying. One can rail at the gods and goddesses: “Why? Why now? Why me?” But, in the end, we know those questions ring absurd and empty. Cancer is an epidemic. It has been here for ever. It isn’t personal. Its choice of the vulnerable host is often arbitrary. It’s life.

For months, doctors and nurses have cut me, stitched me, jabbed me, drained me, cat-scanned me, X-rayed me, IV-ed me, flushed me and hydrated me, trying to identify the source of my anxiety and alleviate my pain. While they have been able to remove the cancer from my body, treat an abscess here, a fever there, they have not been able to even come close to the core of my malady.

Three years ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo seized my being. V-Day, a movement to stop violence against women and girls, was invited to see firsthand the experience of women survivors of sexual violence there. After three weeks at Panzi hospital in Bukavu, where there were more than 200 women patients, many of whom shared their stories of being gang-raped and tortured with me, I was shattered. They told me about the resulting loss of their reproductive organs and the fistulae they got – the hole between their vagina and anus or vagina and bladder that no longer allowed them to hold their urine or faeces. I heard about nine-month-old babies, eight-year-old girls, 80-year-old women who had been humiliated and publicly raped.

In response, taking the lead from women on the ground, we created a massive campaign, – Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls of DRC – which has broken taboos, organised speak-outs and marches, educated and trained activists and religious leaders, and spurred performances of The Vagina Monologues across the country, culminating this month with a performance in the Congolese parliament. V-Day activists have spread the campaign across the planet, raising money and consciousness. In several months, with the women of Congo, we will be opening the City of Joy, a community for survivors where women will be healed in order to turn their pain to power. We have also sat and pleaded our case at Downing Street, the White House, and the office of the UN secretary general. We have shouted (loudly) at the Canadian parliament, the US Senate, and the UN security council. Tears were shed; promises were made with great enthusiasm.

As I have lain in my hospital bed or attempted to rest at home over these months, it is the phone calls and the reports that come in daily from the DRC that make me ill. The stories of continued rapes, machete killings, grotesque mutilations, outright murdering of human rights activists – these images and events create nausea and weakness much worse than chemo or antibiotics or pain meds ever could. But even harder to deal with, in the weakened state that I have been in, is knowing that despite the ongoing horrific atrocities that have taken the lives of more than 6 million people and left more than 500,000 women and girls raped and tortured, the international power elite appear to be doing nothing. They have essentially written off the DRC and its people, even after continued visits and promises.

The day is late. It is almost 13 years into this war. The Obama administration, as in most situations these days, refuses to take a real stand. Several months ago I visited the White House to meet a high official to engage the first lady in our efforts to end sexual violence in Congo, believing that her solidarity would galvanise attention and action. I was told, essentially, that femicide was not her “brand”. Mrs Obama, I was told, was focusing on childhood obesity.

It surprised me that a woman with her capabilities lacked ambidextrous skills (or was it simply interest and will that was absent?). Then we have Secretary Clinton, who at least after much pressure visited the DRC almost a year ago, and made promises that actually meant a huge deal to the people. They were excited that the US government might finally prioritise building the political will in the Great Lakes region to end the war there. But, of course, they are still waiting. And then there is the UN. The anaemic and glacial pace and the death-like bureaucracy continue to allow and, in the case of Monuc and the security council, even help facilitate a deathly regional war.

Two weeks ago, in Kinshasa, one of Congo’s great human rights activists, Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, was brutally murdered. In the same week, at Panzi hospital the family of a staff member were executed. A 10-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl were gunned down in their car on their way home. Murdering and raping of the women in the villages continues. The war rages on. Who is demanding the protection of the people of Congo? Who is protecting the activists who are speaking truth to power? At a memorial service last week in Bukavu, a pastor cried out: “They are killing our mammas. Now they are killing our children. What have we done to deserve this? Where is the world?”

The atrocities committed against the people of Congo are not arbitrary, like my cancer. They are systematic, strategic and intentional. At the root is a madly greedy world economy, desperate for more minerals robbed from the indigenous Congolese. Sourcing this insatiable hunger are multinational corporations who benefit from these minerals and are willing to turn their backs on the players committing femicide and genocide, as long as their financial needs are met.

I am lucky. I have been blessed with a positive prognosis that has made me hyper-aware of what keeps a person alive. How does one survive cancer? Of course – good doctors, good insurance, good luck. But the real healing comes from not being forgotten. From attention, from care, from love, from being surrounded by a community of those who demand information on your behalf, who advocate and stand up for you when you are in a weakened state, who sleep by your side, who refuse to let you give up, who bring you meals, who see you not as a patient or victim but as a precious human being, who create metaphors where you can imagine your survival. This is my medicine, and nothing less will suffice for the people, for the women, for the children of Congo.

Say No To Canadian Troops For The Congo

By admin, April 24, 2010 9:13 am
Say No To Canadian Troops For The Congo
By Bodia Macharia
Global Research, April 22, 2010

As Canada’s Governor-General Michaelle Jean visits the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), much speculation abounds regarding the new-found attention being paid to the DRC by the Canadian government. It appears that Canadian General Andrew Leslie is primed to head the 20,000 strong United Nations Mission in the Congo.

There is speculation that the anticipated Canadian troops withdrawal from Afghanistan may result in Canadian troops presence in Congo.

Canadian troops should stay home. The DRC does not need more militarization, it needs justice. Canada can help to advance justice, peace and stability in the Congo without sending a single soldier. Should the Canadian government and people in general do the following, it would go further to advance peace and stability in the Congo more than any number of Canadian troops:

1. Call on the United States and England in particular as well as other nations throughout the globe to make Congo a top diplomatic priority.

2. Call on the United States and England to pressure their allies Rwanda and Uganda to cease the destabilization of the Congo, open political space in their own countries and engage in sincere and earnest dialogue with their countrymen who are wreaking havoc in the Congo.

3. Canada should also leverage its position with Rwanda to open political space inside Rwanda and engage in dialogue with Rwandan rebel groups inside Congo.

4. Canada should call on its corporations and those raising capital on the Toronto Stock Exchange (an estimated half the mining capital in the world is raised on the Toronto Stock Exchange) to cease their exploitation of Congo’s riches. Companies such as Banro, First Quantum, Anvil Mining, Barrick Gold via its partner Anglo-Gold Ashanti and others have or continue to benefit at the expense of the Congolese people. A good start would be for the Parliament to pass Bill C-300. In addition, assure that the Canadian Investment Fund for Africa is used for its original purpose – African companies, not Canadian companies that have ready access to capital markets.

5. Provide support to local institutions as opposed to authoritarian regimes (Rwanda and Uganda for example) that oppress their populations with the support of Canadian tax dollars.

Remember to join Friends of Congo on the Break the Silence Tour as we make over 30 stops during the month of April.Click here to see where you can join us on the tour!

email: info@friendsofthecongo.org

phone: 202-584-6512

web: http://www.friendsofthecongo.org

Bodia Macharia is the President of Friends of Congo, University of Toronto

WHEN TWO BULLS FIGHT…: WOMEN AND GIRLS IN THE DRC CONFLICT

By admin, March 14, 2010 9:43 pm

WHEN TWO BULLS FIGHT…: WOMEN AND GIRLS IN THE DRC CONFLICT

by Bathseba Opini and Aline Nizigama

Introduction

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most devastating post-independence conflicts on the African continent. It has disrupted the social, cultural, economic and political conditions of the people. It is widely estimated that, to date, more than 5 million people have lost their lives and/or been displaced. Women and children are the most affected. Widespread rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated by armed forces, militia, insurgent groups and even civilians have made the DRC a precarious territory for women and girls to reside in. However, one has to remain hopeful. An array of practical short-term and long-term solutions could be implemented to address this problem. Before such solutions are suggested, a brief look at the history behind the gender-based violence that women and girls are experiencing in the DRC today is in order.

Background to the DRC Crisis

The roots of the DRC conflict lie in its great wealth of natural resources and people’s desire to control and exploit them. In pursuit of rubber wealth, up to 25 million people died in the DRC under King Leopold II’s rule, and his repressive leadership style was inherited by the post-independent elites. It started in January 1961 with the assassination of the first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, purportedly because of his anti-capitalist stance. Lumumba had been dismissed from office by Joseph Kasavubu, the then president, who was himself ousted by Joseph-Desire Mobutu in 1965.  Mobutu ruled the country as his personal property and misappropriated its resources. The nation’s wealth became the preserve of a few “well connected” elites while the majority of the Congolese people remained landless peasants, low-ranking civil servants or unemployed. The gap between rich and poor became intolerable and there emerged open conflicts between them. Political dissent became wide-spread and it resulted in organized resistance.

“The roots of the DRC conflict lie in its great wealth of natural resources and people’s desire to control and exploit them… The nation’s wealth became the preserve of a few ‘well connected’ elites… The gap between rich and poor became intolerable.”

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, approximately 1.5 million Hutus fled Rwanda to the Congo and settled in refugee camps. Among these refugees were Hutu militants who were a threat to the Tutsis in eastern DRC. Finally in 1996, when the Tutsis were deprived of DRC citizenship and threatened with expulsion, an anti-Mobutu rebellion led by Laurent Kabila emerged with support from several neighboring African countries, particularly Rwanda. Mobutu finally fled the country and died in exile in 1997. Laurent Kabila declared himself head of state.

The Congolese people hoped that Kabila was going to change conditions, but he did not. Like Mobutu, he squandered the country’s resources and banned all opposition political parties. People resisted, and Kabila began to lose his grip on the country. After a year in power, Kabila broke his alliance with the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda (who had greatly assisted him to power), an action that turned Rwanda and Uganda against his regime. These two neighbouring countries, in turn, backed Congolese rebel factions to topple Kabila. At this point (1998), Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia came to Kabila’s rescue, supplying troops and military equipment. The Hutu militiamen responsible for the Rwandan genocide and who had sought and obtained refuge in the Congo also fought on the side of Kabila’s government.

In 2001, in an ongoing manifestation of DRC’s violence, Kabila was assassinated and his son Joseph took over. He tried to negotiate a peace deal with Rwanda and Uganda in 2001, but the conflict reignited in 2002. In 2006, the DRC held its first multi-party elections, which Joseph Kabila won in spite of allegations of voting irregularities. Joseph Kabila continues to lead the country in 2010. The country is still experiencing significant economic, social and political challenges. Inflation is on the rise, corruption is widespread, and all administrative and economic structures suffer from a lack of resources and transparency.

“All administrative and economic structures suffer from a lack of resources and transparency… (and) the desire by African nations and international players to profit from the country’s mineral wealth.”

Compounding the problems of leadership in the DRC is the desire by African nations and international players to profit from the country’s mineral wealth. Lured by the Congo’s mineral resources, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Namibia have all taken advantage of internal conflicts in the DRC and sided with either the government of the day or with rebel groups. Rwandan and Ugandan armies are said to have grown wealthy as a consequence of the conflict and minerals of the DRC. Indeed natural resources in the Congo have been more of a curse than a blessing for the country.

The DRC crisis is thus not of the Congolese people’s making alone; external forces have also played a role. We should be aware of the complicity of western powers and neighbouring African nations. We should consider who is supplying the warring camps with arms, financing and training the soldiers and militias, and why. We cannot ignore the role of the international community especially its supply of arms and investment in illicit mining. The wealth generated from these activities ends up in western countries, a fact documented by more than one UN Security Council report.

Vulnerability of Women and Children in the War

There is a Kiswahili saying that goes ” Wapiganapo ndume wawili, aumiaye ni nyasi ” (When two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers). The common people of the DRC, especially women and children, have always paid a hefty price for these conflicts and this is particularly true of the conflicts of the last decade in eastern Congo. Sexual violence against women and girls in this part of the DRC is rampant and it can serve specific war purposes. It is utilized as a tactic of political and psychosocial control (Beneduce, et al, 2006). In Rape in War: The humanitarian response (2000),  L. Schank and M.J. Schull see rape as a weapon to “terrorize communities and to achieve ethnic cleansing.”

“Sexual violence against women and girls in this part of the DRC is rampant and it can serve specific war purposes. It is utilized as a tactic of political and psychosocial control.”

Such sexual violence has immediate and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences. Physically, the women’s bodies are destroyed. There have been incidents where rapists push objects up the women’s and girls’ vaginas after rape, destroying their reproductive system (Human Rights Report, 2002).  Rape in the DRC conflict has also contributed to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Psychologically, many women and children remain traumatized following their horrible rape experiences. Socially, those who are raped often experience stigma and being ostracized from their families and communities.

There are also broader economic and political consequences. When the lives of women and children are threatened, the state is also threatened. Women in the DRC play a crucial role in the country’s economy. According to C. Suda (1996), the survival of the family and that of the future of the nation depends on the well-being of the female population. Women’s efforts in producing and processing food in the country are under serious threat. With the current war, women do not feel safe enough to go to the farms to till the land. Rape is thus contributing to famine in the region. The subsistence sector has collapsed leading to further tragedies, such as sickness and malnutrition.

Respecting and Protecting Women and Girls: A Framework and Approaches

What has happened to the old proverb “A woman must not be killed”? She is the mother of life and to kill the woman is to kill children, and thus to kill humanity itself. A woman should be handled with respect in society! The privileged classes in the DRC are busy amassing wealth for themselves while the people are suffering. The country cannot prosper when a large percentage of its population is insecure and poor. The following paragraphs outline some recommendations to protect women and give them the role they should have:

  • There is an urgent need for a holistic and sustainable framework to find solutions to the problem in the DRC. The framework should address the social, cultural, political, economic, and spiritual wounds resulting from the war. Such a framework requires the goodwill of the leaders in the DRC and its people, the countries in the African region that are currently involved in the crisis and their citizens, together with the whole African continent and the international community. J. Ward and M. Marsh (2006) argue that rape and other types of sexually violent practice in wartime used to be taboo subjects that victims hid and that society dared not address.  Slowly but surely, gender-based violence has now become part of global public discourse. Today, discussion of the condition of women in the DRC has increased tremendously. The use of rape as a weapon to terrorize communities is no longer just a crime but a crime against humanity, punishable by international law. Systematic rape during political unrest is considered a violation of human rights. Leaders in the DRC should now follow suit and condemn and bring to justice all those involved in the sexual abuse of women in the country. There is also a need to address the stigma that accompanies rape. Survivors of sexual violence should be encouraged to come out and speak about their experiences without fear of being shunned by their families, rejected by their spouses or by the whole community. Local and international governments should develop community programs aimed specifically at helping such women reintegrate with their communities.

  • Traditionally, children and youth were taught important moral standards of behavior. They learned about personal discipline, exercising self-control, respecting parents, elders and other community members, and they understood the consequences of violating such standards. It is important to tap into this rich indigenous African ethic of respect and honour for women and children. In traditional African settings, the protection of women and their participation in the decision making process were fundamental. Colonization saw women’s roles redefined as subordinate to those of men. Today men remain the power holders and women barely have any leadership positions in civil society or the political arena. Even in peace and reconciliation dialogues, women either have no representation at all or they are tokenized.  Traditional teachings should be used to sensitize the soldiers, militia and other youth who are violating women and girls. The church, educational institutions and government should also incorporate these indigenous teachings in their programs to propagate peace and reconciliation.
  • In 2001, women’s rights advocates around the globe acclaimed the implementation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of its potential for developing a meaningful accountability framework for sexual violence against women in armed conflict. L.S.R. Jefferson (2004) believes that its formulation provides a clear definition of what constitutes war crimes particularly as they relate to gender-based violence, including rape, sex traffic, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and forced marriage.  Moreover, the statutes in the ICC have a provision for aiding the investigation process and the protection of witnesses. The ICC started monitoring the evolution of the situation in Ituri, eastern DRC, in July 2003. This region has been disproportionately hit by sexual violence but thus far not many of the criminals have been brought to justice. Within Africa itself, the African Union is committed to promoting peace and security, democratic institutions, good governance and human rights on the continent. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), formed in 2001, also seeks to address and prevent political conflicts; to strengthen democratic, political and economic governance systems and institutions, and to address challenges related to poverty and to underdeveloped infrastructure. While we may boast of the ICC, AU and NEPAD guidelines, we also need to ask, who is doing what? Where are the women in all these initiatives? If the men who head these bodies are genuinely committed to promoting democracy, good governance, equity and human rights on the continent, they ought to give women equal representation in the running of the organizations, decision making power and a role in planning and, in this case, implementing solutions for addressing the plight of the women in the DRC.
“While we may boast of the ICC, AU and NEPAD guidelines, we also need to ask… Where are the women in all these initiatives?”

The Way Forward

Because the aftermath of the atrocities committed against women and children lasts for a long period of time, and because intergenerational trauma is inevitable, important question are: How is healing to be attained? How do we create sustainable peace? What is the best way forward?

Africa has for a long time looked to the West to solve its problems. Gerald Caplan (2008) as well as Nhema (2004) believe that while advice and prescriptions from the West may be helpful, the solutions to some of Africa’s conflicts will have to be home-grown, drawing on local resources to address the challenges that face the country. Nhema argues that when negotiation and reconciliation efforts are put within the framework of existing local socio-economic, political and cultural structures, and given opportunity, they work. The envisioned framework which draws on indigenous conflict resolution methodologies should have a good representation of women. This is one crucial way society and those in power can begin to take seriously the problems that women and girls are facing. Government decrees and directives and policies by international NGOs and governments are not going to help resolve the problem when they come down as statements detached from the lived realities of the affected women. No significant change can truly take place without the participation of these women in shaping their future.

Engaging women to be active builders of tomorrow’s DRC civil society needs to become a political goal. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, passed in October 2000, reaffirms the crucial role that women can play in preventing conflict in the first place, and in promoting lasting peace after conflict. Recovery is possible in post-conflict zones and it starts with turning the page and, in Jefferson’s words, imagining a society founded on “improving the future outlook of rape and gender-based violence survivors” and on empowering and “promoting civil, political, economic, cultural, and social rights for all women.” For instance, in addition to ending violence, as D.C. Gondola (2002) suggests, DRC women should be allowed access to banks and credit facilities so that they can engage in trade and commerce and hence attain economic independence/success. Access should also be extended to politics so that there is more female representation in parliament where policies are made.

Finally, those violating women and girls should remember that they are destroying the nation’s future. We are hoping for the day when all the people of DRC and the external players will say enough is enough and stop warring, end the sexual violence, pick up the pieces and build a united DRC. It is never too late. For until now, whenever “two bulls” have fought in the DRC, it has been the women and girls who suffer.

(Bathseba Opini enseigne dans le Teacher Education Program à l’Ontario Institute for Studies in Education de l’Université de Toronto. / Bathseba Opini teaches in the Teacher Education Program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.)

(Aline Nizigama est originaire du Burundi et a passé neuf ans dans le Midwest des États-Unis. Elle réside présentement à Toronto et est étudiante en  dernière année du Health Policy Program à l’Université York. / Aline Nizigama is originally from Burundi and spent nine years in the Midwest of the United States as an immigrant. She currently resides in Toronto and is in her final year of the Health Policy Program at York University.)

Bibliography & Links:

Beneduce, R., L. Jourdan, T. Raeymaekers & K. Vlassenroot (2006). “Violence with a Purpose: Exploring the functions and meaning of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Intervention 4(1): 32-46.

Caplan, G. (2008). The Betrayal of Africa. Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

Fried, S.T. (2003). “Violence against Women.” Health & Human Rights 6(2): 88-111.

Gondola, D. C. (2002). The History of Congo. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Human Rights Watch (2002). The War within the War: Sexual violence against women and girls in Eastern Congo. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Jefferson,  L.S.R. (2004). “In War as in Peace: Sexual violence and women’s status.” Health & Human Rights , 2004.

Koen, K. (2006). Claiming Space: Reconfiguring women’s roles in post-conflict situations. Occasional Paper 121, February 2006. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

Nhema, G. A. (2004). “Introduction.” In A.G. Nhema (Ed.). The Quest for Peace in Africa: Transformations, democracy and public policy , pp. 11-21. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: OSSREA.

Rodriguez, C. (2007). “Sexual Violence in South Kivu, Congo.” Forced Migration Review , 2007.

Shank, L. & M.J. Schull (2000). “Rape in War: The humanitarian response.” Canadian Medical Journal Association 163(9): 1148-1149.

Suda, C. (1996). “The Centrality of Women in the Moral Teachings in African Society.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 5(2): 71-83.

Vlassenroot, K. & T. Raeymakers (2004). Conflict and Social Transformation in Eastern DR Congo. Gent: Academia Press Scientific Publishers.

Wakabi, W. (2008). “Sexual Violence Increasing in Democratic Republic of Congo.” The Lancet 371(9606): 15.

Ward, J. & M. Marsh (2006). “Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, responses, and required resources.” A Briefing Paper Prepared for Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond, 21-23 June 2006 Brussels (Belgium). Retrieved January 2010 from http://www.unfpa.org/emergencies/symposium06/docs/finalbrusselsbriefingpaper.pdf.

Rwanda and the D R Congo resource: Following the mineral trail

By admin, February 23, 2010 12:26 am
AfricaFiles

Title: Rwanda and the D R Congo resource: Following the mineral trail
Author: John Lasker : Ohio
Category: Resource Extraction
Date: 2/18/2010
Source: Towardfreedom
Source Website: http://towardfreedom.com

African Charter Article# 21: All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources for their exclusive interest, eliminating all forms of foreign economic exploitation.
Summary & Comment: This article highlights Rwanda’s role in Congo’s resource wars through the support it gives to militia groups and as the trade route for the illegally exploited minerals. It also implicates the USA as a major backer and beneficiary of the exploited minerals. A US proposed bill, the ‘conflict mineral act of 2009’ that outlines measures to solve the conflict, falls short of mentioning Rwanda, a key ally in the conflict. What are the implications for peace in the region? MUB


Following the mineral trail: Congo resource wars and Rwanda

http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1864/1/

The Rwandan government and its military have largely been suspected by a UN Panel of Experts, human rights organizations and independent journalists, of financially supporting a number of violent militias that have destabilized the eastern Congo region to illegally traffic millions-of-dollars worth of minerals such as coltan, gold, and cassiterite. These minerals are then brought from neighboring Congo into Rwanda for eventual sale on the international market.

In 2000, Rwanda, an African ally of Washington, produced 83 tons of coltan from its own mines but found a way to export a total of 603 tons that year, as discovered by Danish journalist Bjorn Willum, after he requested the figures from the National Bank of Rwanda. Willum also found the Rwandan army, which at the time was receiving funding and training from the US military, made $250 million that year by selling stolen Congolese minerals, most likely purchased from their shadow militias.

Roughly ten years later, a UN Panel of Expert’s report titled The 2009 Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo states that the illegal traffic of Congolese minerals still flows into Rwanda mostly from these violent militias that continue to profit greatly, presumably passing earnings onto their Rwandan backers. The report also implicated a number of Western-based mining companies and metal brokers of indirectly financing the resource war as their buyers simply waited in Rwanda for the minerals to make their way across the border.

What’s more, this is not the first UN Panel of Expert’s report on the exploitation of Congolese resources; similar findings were also publicized in 2001 and 2003. While a consensus can not be reached among government agencies and human rights groups, the International Rescue Committee believes the resource war which started in the mid-1990s has taken the lives of 4 to 5 million people, most of whom are Congolese.

Given the implication of such violence and illegal trade, one would expect US embassy officials in Rwanda to have an opinion on the subject. Sasha Lezhnev is the director of the Grassroots Reconciliation Group, a nonprofit that aids former child soldiers. Of late, he’s spent time in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2008 Lezhner spoke to the outgoing US ambassador to Rwanda about the resource conflicts in the region.

“I asked the ambassador,” says Lezhnev, “‘What are your feelings about Rwanda’s influence in the eastern Congo?’” The ambassador immediately responded: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lezhnev was shocked at what he believes is simply the former ambassador’s ignorance of Rwanda’s influence. “We have to open our eyes to what’s going on,” he says. Yet after years of apparent indifference to the eastern Congo resource wars, it appears the US is finally starting to take measures to help end the conflict; the U.S. Senate is pushing forward the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009. The bill calls for, among other things, a system of oversight to keep watch on all US-based industries that utilize Congolese coltan, cassiterite, wolframite and gold, and make sure the minerals were not extracted from conflict mines controlled by illegal armed groups.

However, the bill makes no mention of the Paul Kagame regime, which has led Rwanda since the genocide of 1994, or his administration’s influence in eastern Congo. Kagame has said any strategic maneuvers on Rwanda’s part in the eastern Congo, which also includes the deployment of regular Rwandan troops, is so to keep the pressure on those groups that took part in the 1994 massacre.

But according to Professor Yaa-Lengi, who runs the New York-based Coalition for Peace, Justice and Democracy in the Congo, millions of Congolese – a number corroborated by several American-based human-rights organizations interviewed for this article – believe Kagame’s claims are a ruse, a smoke-screen to loot Congolese minerals. He says it is part of an elaborate plan that many Congolese believe was initiated by the US; and thus Rwanda is an American proxy with a mission to keep Congolese minerals moving cheaply to Western-based mining companies. Yaa-Lengi says these theories, deemed far-fetched by many experts, don’t end there. “Bill Clinton was behind the (1994) genocide,” he stated. “Millions of Congolese believe this.”

Lezhnev and representatives of other human rights groups working in the eastern Congo scoff at Yaa-Lengi and the charges he levels against the Clinton administration. But they agree the Congolese have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the US and their regional interests. For instance, David Sullivan of the Enough Project says during the Bush administration, the White House had a public relations official working in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. When Bush’s term ended in 2008, he says the official quickly took a job with the mining company Freeport-McMoRan and its operations in the country, which mainly extracts copper and cobalt. “There are some really dangerous arguments about this [US interests in the Congo],” says Sullivan. “There are a lot of conspiracy theories. And many people overstate the influence of the US in Rwanda and the region.”

Fueling those conspiracy theories in part is President Kagame, who gained power immediately following the 1994 genocide. Kagame went through a U.S. military training program on American soil during the years leading up to the massacre. There’s also historical evidence that points to how important Congolese minerals are to the US; the US military acquired uranium from a mine in the DRC town of Skinkolobwe to build the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The U.S. continues to maintain strong ties with Rwanda: US assistance to the country “has increased four-fold over the past four years,” according to the US State Department.

Lezhnev says, “We have a lot of leverage with Kagame and we have to use that.” Meaning that the US needs to pressure the Rwandan government into ending its destabilizing role in the eastern Congo. Yet what specific influences the US ultimately has over Rwanda remains a mystery. One element that contradicts the conspiracy theories offered by Yaa-Lengi, however, is the new Senate bill. Sullivan says it could end the resource war in eastern Congo. But he acknowledges the bill is no panacea.

“We would like to see a provision in the bill that makes [all metal brokers who sell minerals acquired from the eastern Congo] disclose the minerals exact origin, the exact mine it came from,” he says. “If they say they are getting the minerals from Malawi, then they have to have an independent verification saying so.” When selling their minerals onto the international market, metal traders have faked records saying the minerals were actually from countries other than the Congo.

Essentially, what Sullivan and the Enough Project are calling for is an independent auditing effort based in the eastern Congo. This could be expensive, but if established, could lead to new successes in the fight against the looting. For example, say a metal broker is caught selling minerals from a mine that is a source of conflict and controlled by a violent militia – a reality for many eastern Congolese mines. In this case “[the metal broker] will lose access to international markets,” says Sullivan. Some experts on the eastern Congo say the bill is flawed and if passed, won’t have the muscle to end the resource war.

“Given the many links in the supply chain [of eastern Congo minerals], any of them can simply claim they don’t know where the minerals are coming from and it is currently difficult to prove them wrong,” says David Barouski, a student from the University of Wisconsin, who has documented first-hand the resource war in the eastern Congo. “The U.S. claims it wants to help implement ways to certify this chain, but how are they going to do it for every mine in a conflict zone? Certification at the mines would require agents to go on site, but with such poor infrastructure it would be years before this is feasible and there would need to be peace to rebuild the infrastructure.”

Besides the U.S., the Congolese people don’t trust the UN either, says Yaa-Lengi. Throwing fuel on their UN speculation, he says, is the 2009 UN Panel of Experts’ report on the eastern Congo, The Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At first the report was leaked, angering members of the Security Council. Then its official release was delayed.

“The UN delayed publishing it because it points a finger back to the UN and the Security Council,” says Yaa-Lengi. “This is because they are allowing the Congolese to die and be raped. The UN knows it, but they are allowing it. All members of the Security Council are benefiting from the resources of the Congo. The UN does only what the Security Council wants and by that we mean what the super powers want.” The U.N. Security Council is comprised of the U.S., Great Britain, France, Russia and China as permanent members and two other rotating member nations. Companies in every one of these nations, claims Yaa-Lengi, have benefitted in some way from the cheap minerals taken from eastern Congo, one of poorest nations on the planet. But according to the African Business Magazine, the DRC currently has an estimated total mineral wealth of $24 trillion, equivalent to the GDP of Europe and the US combined.

Sullivan of the Enough Project agrees the Congolese are suspect of the UN, as they are of the US. Yet, he says to “keep in mind the [UN] Panel of Experts is independent of the Security Council.” For the most part, this UN Panel of Experts is made up of regional experts of the eastern Congo, its culture, government and society, he says, adding “The new report has pretty much been ignored by the Security Council.” Indeed, past UN Panel of Experts’ reports on the eastern Congo, published in 2001 and 2003, were also mostly ignored by members of the Security Council. Even though the UN Panel of Experts had evidence piled high implicating scores of Western-based mining companies and metal brokers of buying looted minerals from conflict mines of the eastern Congo.

Take, for example, the story of Robert Raun, a former metal broker who worked just across the eastern Congolese border in Rwanda. He was the beneficiary of a strange response on the part of the UN in 2004, a response that sends mixed messages about the West and their intentions for the eastern Congo resource war. Raun and his mining company, Trinitech of Cleveland, Ohio, which processed and traded coltan, had been implicated in the UN’s 2001 report, The Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This report essentially accused Trinitech and over 100 other Western-based mining companies of looting minerals from the eastern Congo. The minerals included coltan, a black metal ore that is needed to meet the West’s insatiable thirst for personal technology. It is a key ingredient in the manufacture of cell phones, lap tops and video-game consoles. (Also see Inside Africa’s PlayStation War in Toward Freedom.) When Raun stepped onto the 20th floor of the Secretariat Tower of the United Nations in 2004 to respond to their charges, the “power of accusation” from the UN, he says, had already ruined Trinitech. The UN also accused Raun of aligning with “elite networks” of Rwandan government officials and high-ranking military officers. The elite networks were apparently forcing Congolese children and captives to mine for coltan. “The allegations we were using child labor was a fabrication,” insists Raun, a devout Christian. “[But] accusation is a powerful thing. It ruined us. Nobody wants to buy from the company that’s wearing the Scarlet Letter. We’re just a shell of what we used to be. But we’re standing, by the power of God, we’re standing.”

Nevertheless, on that day in New York City in 2004, the UN would surprisingly drop its charges against Trinitech. Indeed, at that time, the UN was giving a lot of Western-based mining companies and metal brokers working in eastern Congo a pass. Out of the 100 or so mining companies accused of looting minerals, the UN dropped the charges against each one, infuriating mining watchdog efforts such as MiningWatch Canada. Raun only answers to the child labor charges, however. When asked who Trinitech was buying its coltan from, and whether it came from conflict-ridden mines in the eastern Congo, he responds, “No comment”.

Ten Radical Acts for Congo in the New Year

By admin, January 11, 2010 12:27 pm

Ten Radical Acts for Congo in the New Year

Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler

Author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’

Posted: January 11, 2010 10:34 AM

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler/ten-radical-acts-for-cong_b_418425.html

Having just been in the Congo for the last month, it is evident that the more than 12-year economic war in the Democratic Republic of Congo rages on. Almost 6 million dead. Almost 500 thousand raped. Here is what I propose:
1. Please stop endlessly repeating these phrases:

• “The Congo has been like this forever.”

• “There is nothing we can do.”

• “It’s too complicated. I just don’t understand.”

• “It’s a cultural thing.”
A. Violence against women and girls is rampant across the entire planet.

B. Sexual terrorism was imported into the DRC like a plague about 12 years ago years ago, after a 1996 military operation know as Operation Turquoise — a plan supported and implemented by the international community which allowed murdering Hutu militias of Rwanda (FDLR) into Eastern Congo. Since then, this sexual terrorism has been sustained by these and other parties interested in the minerals, (coltan, gold, tin), that are serving you. Like a plague, this rape and sexual violence has spread infecting the Congolese Army and even the UN peacekeepers who are there to “protect” the women. Put pressure on the international community to remove all outside militias. They brought them there, they are responsible for getting them out.

2. Stop asking women survivors in the Congo to tell their stories over and over

A woman activist told me yesterday they were going to shut up now.
“There is no reason to keep telling the story or paying expats lots of money
to research the story of women and girls in the Congo. We all know the story.”

Read the latest U.N. human rights reports from the NYT

Visit these sites:

AFEM

Friends of Congo
Read the recent Human Rights Watch reports

Read the history

We know what is happening in the DRC. Now is the time for action.

3. Deconstruct and abolish subterranean and learned racism

Deconstruct and abolish subterranean and learned racism that lies at the bedrock of human consciousness and arranges and expects and accepts the doom of black and brown people. Undo the brutal and evil indifference to the suffering of the people of Congo, the women in particular.

4. Shoes, shoes, shoes, for everyone who needs them

5. Insist on support for thousands of trained Congolese women police officers

Insist on support for thousands of trained Congolese women police officers who can protect their sisters in the bush. Don’t let Security Council resolutions 1820 and 1325 continue to be random insider numbers UN policy bureaucrats refer to when they are trying to prove they are doing something about sexual violence. Insist they be resolutions with grit that get applied regularly with sincerity and substance. Begin application by insisting that the UN not collaborate with rapists and former warlords in military operations.

Write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ask her to allocate funding for a women’s police force in the Congo:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

6. Serve the Congolese and take their lead

Support their initiatives. Get out of the way. Support the local groups and campaigns that already exist, that have existed. They need your support to continue to exist. Fight to make sure the money headed for Eastern Congo actually gets to the women on the ground – the grassroots groups who need it most. Believe in grassroots women and men. Send them your confidence, your solidarity, and your money.

Give to V-Day’s Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource campaign as it continues to support local groups on the ground like AFEM, the South Kivu Women’s Media Association, Panzi Hospital in Bukavu and Heal Africa Hospital in Goma, women’s collectives like I Will Not Kill Myself Today and AFECOD, and the Women’s Ministry and Laissez l’Afrique Vivre.

Click here to donate.

7. Tell President Obama to step up to Femicide

Insist that as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama ask questions about the history of the conflict in the Congo. Ask him to find out how and when this war began. Ask him to put his attention to what’s happening to the women in the Congo, to femicide — the destruction of the female species that is spreading to other countries and will continue to spread if he, himself does not make this a front and center issue. The Congo needs to be more than a phrase reference in one of his speeches. He needs to come to the Congo. He needs to meet the women and bring them to the table with himself and leaders of Rwanda and Uganda and Burundi. He needs to help facilitate a diplomatic plan for peace that does not involve more violence.

Write to President Obama and ask him to make finding a non-military solution to the war in Congo a priority in his foreign policy agenda.

8. Acknowledge what’s fueling this war and your part in it

Educate yourself about how conflict minerals are illegally and inhumanely pillaged from the Congo and make their way into your cell phones and the computer you are using to read this post right now. Demand that electronics companies alter their mining and trade policies so that conflict-free minerals are used in our electronics. Until this happens, we all literally have blood on our hands.

Investigate where and how your electronics companies are purchasing their materials. As a consumer, demand that they use conflict-free minerals in their parts.

9. Talk about the Congo everywhere you go

Be a pain in the ass. Ruin cocktail parties. Stop traffic. Give sermons. Insert facts about Congo in every possible occasion, i.e., in response to “How are you today?,” you might say: “Well, I would be okay if women weren’t being raped in the DRC….”

Host teach-ins and screen V-Day’s film Turning Pain to Power. Visit vday.org to access both.

10. Get angry and stop being polite

Feel what your sister, mother, grandmother, daughter, wife, girlfriend would be feeling if she were being gang raped or held as a sex slave for years or if her insides were destroyed by sticks and guns and she could never have another baby.

Feel feel feel.

Open yourself to feeling.
Eve Ensler, a playwright and activist, is the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

DRC: Lubanga trial: “This monster stole my childhood”

By admin, January 7, 2010 11:18 am
Published on Radio Netherlands Worldwide (http://www.rnw.nl)

Lubanga trial: “This monster stole my childhood”

By Hélène Michaud
Created 7 January 2010 10:47

Lubanga trial: "This monster stole my childhood" (Photo: Helene Michaud)

The trial of ex-congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo resumes today at the International Criminal Court  (ICC). The founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) who was a key player in the Ituri conflict is accused of enroling children in his militia and making them take part in combat.

Here’s the story of Yolande, an ex-child soldier in the DRC’s Ituri District, told by RNW’s Hélène Michaud. “This monster who stole my life should be jailed”

It is 5 pm when I enter the compound: dozens of radiant young girls, gathered with their toddlers, are ready to return home after a day at school. Most of them are single mothers, ex-child soldiers in the bloody war in Ituri district at the turn of the century.

In a small office nearby, Yolanda tells me how she became a soldier against her will at age 13. While attempting to flee the advancing militias her parents, she was raped by a soldier who then took her as his “wife”. Her “husband” has taught her how to wield almost any type of weapon – gun, pistol, automatic rifle – and took her out with to pillage in neighbouring villages. She was forced to shoot people, she said, “otherwise he would kill me.”

When I ask her if she has killed, she replies with a nervous laugh: “Yes, but only with stray bullets”. The drugs she was forced to take “caused disturbance in the head, just like going crazy. »

Lost youth
In all, around 13,500 children were enrolled in the Ituri militias. Among the 5,500 girls, 70% are now child mothers.

Outside, we hear voices of young men. These former child soldiers have also been demobilized and are staying here temporarily. The girls are afraid, because, as Yolande says, after what happened to them, they fear any military.

During the day, when the girls are at school and their toddlers are taken care of at the nursery, some of the young men play with the little ones, “with great affection,” according to one of the attendants. Probably to regain their lost youth.

The interview continues in the dark, there is power cut. The darkness helping, Yolande carries on telling her story without hesitation, with defiance even.

“They accuse us for everything bad that happens. When there’s pillaging in the villages and neighborhoods, it is us. Anything bad is us.”

For some, former child soldiers are victims of war, for others, they are criminals. In their communities, they are viewed with suspicion.

Project supported by the ICC
The girls are unaware of that the school rehabilitation program in which they take part is supported by the International Criminal Court that has put three former Iturian warlords on trial in The Hague.

“Until all the damages sustained by the victims are made good, the justice we seek to achieve is just half done,” explains the ICC President, Sang-Hyun Song.

The ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims provides financial assistance to 16 projects in the DRC, discretely, because in the region, anyone associated with the victims can be suspected of siding with one of the militias. This is why, to prevent retaliation, Yolande’s real name will never be revealed to me.

Yolande’s biggest grudge against the militia members is the fact that she was robbed of her childhood during her three years in capitivity.

“They have destroyed the children because they taught them to do adult things. Who can imagine a child who rapes an old lady, who rapes his mother?”

Traumatised
In the house where they lived with the soldiers, the girls often revolted against the rapes of adult women, the “mothers”. Many fights broke out as a result.

One day, Yolande’s parents came to fetch her, but when her “husband” threatened to beat her up before their eyes, they did not insist further. When she became pregnant at age 14, he gave her a choice: “Either you put on your uniform and come and fight, or you go home.” Yolande chose to return home.

Her friend “Tatine”, did not have to fight: she became pregnant shortly after being raped and reunited with her family.

It is hard for me not to think about my own 14-year old girl who had a protected childhood.

Yolande and other girls who returned home pregnant were not welcomed “as a child should be welcomed”, as she puts it. Her parents insisted she go back to the father of her child, but her brother, seeing how traumatised she was, said: “Let her give birth to the child first.”

At peace
Yolande’s parents refused to accept her daughter and even expressed animosity towards their grandchild. In their culture, babies born out of rape are considered a curse to the family.

Since Yolande’s return to school, her parents’ attitude has improved. Yolande, now 19, hopes to pursue her studies and dreams of becoming a mathematician.

Regarding the leaders who are being tried in The Hague, “they should be jailed,” she says, “once in prison they can’t fight anymore.” And the man who raped her and took her as his “wife”? Even he must be imprisoned, “because it was he who destroyed my life.”

“Salam,” she replied in Swahili, her mother tongue, when I ask how she feels after having told her story for the first time. “She feels at peace in her heart,” says the interpreter.

Congo: Sexual Terrorism: Bureaucratic Realism vs. Academic Word-mongering Malpractice

By admin, December 31, 2009 10:46 pm

Sexual Terrorism: Bureaucratic Realism vs. Academic Word-mongering Malpractice

http://alexengwete.blogspot.com/2009/10/sexual-terrorism-bureaucratic-realism.html

Versions of this post appeared on OpEdNews and on Alex Engwete (French). Recently, the phenomenon of sexual terrorism has taken on a new form in eastern Congo: “bush wives” or those “men raped by other men,” to use New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman’s tautological expression, for to date, in the African Great Lakes region, rapists only come in one gender: men!

Rwanda exported “sexual terrorism” to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mostly in the late 1990s, when the chase and revenge killings of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide turned into a full-scale counter-genocide of Hutu refugees with more than 230,000 victims.

Beside outright killings, rapes and sexual mutilations of Hutu women were systematically carried out as a form of punishment for their ethnic group’s perpetration of genocide in Rwanda. And since then, northeastern Congo has become the epicenter of this scourge where it has festered among roving armed bands, penetrated the anthropological fabric of the Congolese society, and results today in the near psychological and physical destruction of rape victims from that part of the country. A sociohistorical antecedent that still has to find a definition and a body of scholarship in social sciences. The most shocking thing about this is that the ongoing sexual terrorism in the Congo has caused scant media attention in Africa and in the rest of the world. A situation that has since been remedied with the release last year of Lisa Jackson’s award-winning documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.

What’s more, African and Congolese social scientists claim to be unable to develop a theoretical tool able to map out, trace, and explain the horrific phenomenon. As the photographer Hazel Thompson puts it in the legend of one of the horrific photographs she brought back from eastern Congo in early October 2007: “No one — doctors, aid workers, Congolese and Western researchers — can explain exactly why this is happening. ‘We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,’ said Dr.[Denis] Mukwege (above photo), ‘They are done to destroy women.’”

Really! Would then this be the first human deviant behavior to baffle scientists in the history of the social sciences?

And yet, in the course of only a 3-week fieldwork period in eastern Congo in the winter of 2004, a couple of female bureaucrats at USAID who didn’t shy away from tackling head on this phenomenon, gave it the name sexual terrorism, now tagged by the UN, and developed in the process a basic theoretical toolkit for understanding it – to the shame and grief of academic social scientists!

What’s sexual terrorism?

The findings of these two bureaucrats are contained in a small, little-known 30-page assessment report by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiative and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that was published on 18 March 2004 in PDF format. Besides defining sexual terrorism, tracing its roots, and offering the first description of its horrific psycho-medical impact on women, the most interesting thing about the conceptual development of this document is the fact that it was wholly elaborated by a team of women in the rape fields of the Congo. The document is entitled Sexual Terrorism: Rape as a Weapon of War in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: An Assessment of programmatic responses to sexual violence in North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, and Orientale Provinces (January 9-16, 2004).

The report was penned by Dr Marion Pratt (Social Science Advisor) and Leah Werchik, J.D. (Human Rights Advisor) – with a team of 5 other women bureaucrats, and a host of Congolese women investigators. What’s also very significant about this report is that, though written by bureaucrats, it is bound one day to become a seminal academic conceptual tool in analyzing the phenomenon.

The report’s definition of “sexual terrorism” is descriptive:

“Rape and associated violence against civilians (women, men, girls, and boys) have been widely employed as weapons in the multiple regional and civil wars that have plagued the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Such violence was noted in cross-border hostilities in 1991 but became more frequent in1994 in the context of regional conflicts stemming from the Rwandan genocide and the pursuant exodus of Rwandan civilians and armed groups into eastern DRC. Fighting continued and grew in the two waves of conflict – known locally as World War I and World War II – that followed in 1996 and 1998, involving seven countries at one point. Perceived as a particularly effective weapon of war and used to subdue, punish, or take revenge upon entire communities, acts of sexual and gender-based violence increased concomitantly. Attacks have comprised individual rapes, sexual abuse, gang rapes, mutilation of genitalia, and rape-shooting or rape-stabbing combinations, at times undertaken after family members have been tied up and forced to watch. The perpetrators have come from among virtually all of the armies, militias and gangs implicated in the conflicts, including local bands that attacked their own communities and local police forces. According to a doctor at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, many victims in that area reported that attackers would encircle villages and rape the women publicly and collectively, including children and the elderly.”

African academics would certainly gain in realism by reading through this short report. The one attempt to my knowledge by an African (male) scholar to describe the phenomenon is couched in almost unreadable language characteristic of the much-discredited deconstruction fad (though the scholar I’m referring to would vehemently refute my lumping him with postmodern Derridean deconstructionists). The Cameroonian academic and prolific postmodernist theorist Achille Mbembe, whom I am referring to, attempted, as I just said, to grasp this phenomenon of sexual terrorism in parts of his essay entitled “Sovereignty as a Form of Expenditure.” I am not even going to dwell on this notion of “expenditure” [dépense] borrowed from the one-time surrealist French philosopher Georges Bataille. But suffice it to say that when our African (male) scholar tries to capture the phenomenon, he fails miserably as he plods through the conceptual field of the equally discredited old psychoanalytic rut:

“In the face of the sense – widespread among men – of menacing feminization, rites of proving or demonstrating one’s virility are multiplying. With the assistance of a context dominated by wars, the tension between what is threatened with extinction and what both formerly has been and now is suppressed is exacerbated, and relations of substitutability between the phallus and the gun are instituted.


On the one hand, and for a number of child-soldiers who now make up the greater part of the armed bands, the demonstration of one’s virility is achieved by means of the gun. The possession of a gun acts, in its turn, as the equivalent of the possession of a phallus on one’s passage out of the age of virginity. But the mediation of the gun for the phallus is only imaginary. Putting to death by means of the gun takes place almost simultaneously with being put to the test through the act of sex – in this case, generally speaking, by group rape. On the other hand, to possess a gun is to enjoy a position of almost unrestricted access to sexual goods; it is, above all, to have access in a very concrete manner to a certain form of abundance at the heart of which a woman is constituted as a superfluity, as what one can dispense with without concern as for whether one will be able to replace it with a similar provision at a later date. Finally, the sexual act itself manages to become an element, not merely of rape, but of violence as such. Rape, to the extent that access to the inwardness of woman is achieved by breaking and entering; violence, to the extent that one uses force to possess and to dominate someone else’s will as one would in combat. And so enjoyment through the gun and through the phallus are conjoined, the one ending in a corporeality that is inert and emptied of all life, death; and the other by a discharge as violent as it is brief, the orgasmic satisfaction by the means of which the power of enjoyment is converted into a power of radically objectifying the Other, whose body one bores into, digs into, excavates, and empties in the very act of rape.”

Now, this is certainly great wordsmithery at best or, at worst, utter shamanism in the art of word-mongering. It’s a shame that this wordy exercise should come from an African scholar reflecting on an urgent African problem! I just used my “word count” tool on both these quotations: the definition of sexual terrorism by Dr. Marion Pratt and Leah Werchik consists of about 227 words, while Achille Mbembe’s obscure aphorism runs for about 375 words that have absolutely no bearing on the destruction of women currently taking place in the Congo. My guess is that had Dr. Patt and Werchik produced the kind of Mbembe’s lyrical narrative to their supervising boss, they’d have been fired on the spot and driven off any American bureaucracy!

The report of Dr Pratt and Werchik should shame all of us that usually lament the built-in systemic wastefulness of bureaucracies and big government. In fact, the U.S. government should staff its bureaucracy with more of this type of no-nonsense bureaucrats. In contrast, the kind of scholarly obfuscation displayed by Achille Mbembe, given the urgent need of action and solutions on behalf of African women victims of sexual terrorism, amounts to reckless academic malpractice. Wouldn’t we then understand why some have called this kind of postmodern “new scholarship” an empty, solipsist, and nihilistic exercise devoid of any realism that would make Bertrand Russell turn in his grave? Would we then question the policy of some African countries faced with limited resources, like Botswana, to restrict scholarship awards for higher education abroad only to those students pursuing studies in “hard sciences”? Wouldn’t academia benefit by opening up to practical scholarly analysis displayed by bureaucrats of the likes of Dr Pratt and Werchik instead of constricting its “cultural studies” departments’ productions to empty exercises in intellectual self-cannibalism by overpaid star scholars?

What’s very astonishing is that Achille Mbembe’s essay is contained in a collective book edited by Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat entitled Sovereign Bodies: Citizens, Migrants, and States in the Postcolonial World (Princeton University Press) published in 2005 – that is, one full year after Dr. Pratt and Werchik’s report was released and posted on the internet. Which means that a simple Google search could have saved Achille Mbembe from whirling around in the embarrassing conceptual rumba we read above.

To get a sense of the horrors of “sexual terrorism,” we thus need to leave the hallways of academia and go to the cubicles of American bureaucracy. A change of venue that shows that Academia is irrelevant when it comes to solving pressing African problems today.

In the short report meticulously and economically crafted by Dr. Pratt and Werchik, the alleged mystery of the mechanism of sexual terrorism unfolds without any syntactic contortions. In just one page of this report, we learn that sexual terrorism has no bounds in terms of its victims’ age who “range in age from four months… to 84 years of age”; in terms of its social consequences as “wave after wave of armed occupation resulted in the disintegration of the moral and social fabric in many localities”; and in terms of its medical, psychosocial, economic, and physiological toll: “Social stigma has left large numbers of rape victims and children born of rape rejected by their families and communities. Many cases of HIV and other infections remain untested and untreated. Fear of going to fields and markets, sites where rapes often take place, has resulted in spiraling malnutrition and economic loss. Widespread criminal impunity and inadequate local and regional governance leave communities without means to reduce the violence.”

The descriptive mode of the report by no means signifies that these two USAID bureaucrats have no understanding of the general academic theory on rape – in fact their short report contains a bibliography with 28 references, including books, reports, and scholarly articles. They do indeed rehearse the most recent scholarly typology of the scourge of rape – specifically Dr. Patricia Rozée’s categories: “punitive rape (used to punish, to elicit silence and control); status rape (occurring as a result of acknowledged differences in rank – master/slave, nobleman/commoner; etc); ceremonial rape (undertaken as part of socially sanctioned rituals or ceremonies); exchange rape (when genital contact is used as a bargaining tool or gesture of conciliation or solidarity); theft rape (involuntary abduction of individuals as slaves, prostitutes, concubines, or spoils of war); and survival rape (when young women become involved with older men to secure goods and/or services needed to survive.” To this, Dr. Pratt and Werchik add their own categories: rape “used to subjugate [entire] populations as a means of gaining access to valuable or scarce assets.”

In tracing the origins of the on-going destruction of women in the Congo, these two bureaucrats point to its “ground zero” of origination: “Certainly, partly due to women’s low legal status in both the traditional and civil domains, rape existed in the eastern provinces before the Rwandan genocide exodus in 1994 and the civil wars of 1996 and 1998. However, most of those cases reportedly took the form of the rape of a girl by a male ‘admirer’ when she went to gather firewood or collect water, for example; the issue was resolved between families by marrying the two, or by requiring the perpetrator to pay restitution to the girl’s family in the form of one or two goats. The extremely high number of cases of rape and the horrific mutilations that began to be reported from 1996 on, however, appears to replicate the massive sexual violence documented in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide.”

The counter-genocide on the Hutu in the Congo by Rwandan troops that spearheaded Laurent Kabila’s rebel troops spread and entrenched this madness, which, according to this report, has even contaminated the Pygmies, who used to be ranked by anthropologists as belonging to the category of “peaceful communities”: “Even the pygmies (or Mbuti tribe), long known for their relatively peaceful demeanor and pacific philosophies, have been drawn into the violence. Their once seemingly idyllic life in the Ituri forests (…) has been slowly transformed at least partly by their painful absorption into more urban settings, and marked by abuse, exploitation, and profound ethnic discrimination. The team discovered that under the cloak of war-induced chaos in North Katanga and other areas, Pygmy men have finally begun to fight back, and are said to be responsible for raping and pillaging Bantu villages– allegedly with the encouragement of Rwandans – in retaliation for decades of abuse.”

What’s even alarming is that in some areas, rape has also turned into the social norm for curtailing or punishing women’s so-called “deviant” or “transgressive” behavior: “The use of sexual violence as a tool of domination and punishment has spread to the community level as well; the team was told of many individual cases of ‘punishment’ perpetrated by civilians against one another. In one instance in North Kivu, a young girl was raped by the owner of a mango tree for taking a green fruit without asking… The use of sexual violence has proliferated to the point that even the most seemingly minor of transgressions or old personal scores are now dealt with through the use of rape and violence.”

Adding to this mix newly-created rape superstitions of prepubescent and postmenopausal women – a superstition reminiscent of the South-African male fallacy on Aids-preemptive rape of female children, then the plight of Congolese women would seem to have no end in sight: “The team heard from several sources that superstitions and fetishism are also playing a role in sexual violence. It was said that some men believe that sex with prepubescent or postmenopausal women can give strength to or protect fighters from injury or death… Paid, professional féticheurs [shamans] in Beni and the surrounding area are allegedly taking advantage of the situation, advising their customers, for example, that raping young girls can protect them from harm or improve their business dealings.”

And page after page of this report, the horrific account of the destruction of Congolese women dissected with the precision and the cold matter-of-factness of traditional and seasoned scholarship that stands out as an indictment of the pomposity of Achille Mbembe or the conceptual helplessness of Congolese social scientists.

One is particularly horrified at the lack of statistics that could give the extent of this unprecedented destruction of women, due largely to the scarcity of funding for carrying out such grim tallies: “There is a natural tendency to want to know how extensive a problem sexual violence is in order to properly address it. However, the assessment team felt strongly that scarce funding should not be used at this time to try to determine total numbers of cases, victims, and survivors. Such studies can be carried out later if necessary, based on dossiers kept by human rights organizations, hospitals, NGOs, and other groups.”

But five years after the release of this report, the destruction of Congolese continues unabated in the jungle and townships of eastern Congo. With these destroyed women carrying in their bodies for the rest of their lives the psychological and physical stigmas: “Rape survivors with fistulas – tears in genital tissue that can cause uncontrollable leakage of fecal matter or urine – need highly specialized care that is both time-consuming and expensive. A doctor at Panzi Hospital told the team, “Sometimes the destruction is such that the women have no more vagina.”
***
Photo: Hazel Thompson for The New York Times

Panorama Theme by Themocracy