Congo Watch: Tens of thousands raped in East Congo

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Tens of thousands raped in East Congo

Sadly, here is another deeply distressing report about countless numbers of female rape victims aged from 4-months old to 80. From what I have gathered over the past 50 years about wars around the world, it seems that mass rape is considered part of war. I cannot stomach looking into the reasons why. Having spent the past year blogging almost daily about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan to try and understand the reasons for genocide and how it occurs, has been more than enough to bear.

Males are responsible for these terrible crimes against humanity. Men attacking, abusing, and murdering defenceless women and children while the men who are left do little to protect the women and children. Imagine if it was men raping men. Would men do more to put a stop to such crimes? My guess is, they would. Here is a copy of the report, in full:

BUNIA, Congo (Reuters) - Government soldiers and rebels have raped tens of thousands of women and children in eastern Congo and are going unpunished as conflict simmers in the lawless region, a leading rights group said Monday.

Fighters on all sides of Congo's war have raped civilians on a massive scale since the conflict broke out in 1998 but only a handful have ever been tried, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

"Sexual violence has shattered tens of thousands of lives in Congo, but fewer than a dozen victims have seen their assailants prosecuted," Alison Des Forges, senior advisor to HRW's Africa division, said in a report.

Sheltering in a refugee camp protected by United Nations peacekeepers with tanks and machine guns, Therese Yeda, 32, described how a militia group gang raped her last week as she walked between two villages.

"One was at the checkpoint and the others were hiding in the bushes before they jumped out and pointed their weapons at me," she said. The people she was with ran away terrified but Yeda was unable to because of all the things she was carrying.

"Ten of them had guns, the other two had machetes. All 12 of them raped me ... I am eight months pregnant but the baby doesn't seem to be moving any more," she said. Her five children were also beaten by the gunmen.

An upsurge in clashes since January has displaced 70,000 civilians in Democratic Republic of Congo's remote northeastern Ituri district, and reports of rape are frequent.

Ethnic warfare has killed more than 50,000 people in Ituri since 1999. Children as young as eight have taken part in the most recent fighting, refugees say.

STIGMA Medecins San Frontieres says it has treated over 2,500 rape victims, from 4-months old to 80 years, at its hospital in the regional capital Bunia since June 2003. The true number could be 50 times higher as victims are afraid to speak out, it says.

"We have been here for two years and we have not seen any improvement. It is so systematic -- whenever there are attacks by armed groups, there is rape," said Patrick Barbier, head of the MSF mission in the region.

"Sexual violence is so stigmatized. The victims don't come and seek medical care ... It is not taken seriously by the authorities so there is complete impunity," he said.

Human Rights Watch said an increasing number of sexual abuse victims wanted justice, but said those rape trials that had taken place in Congo had fallen woefully short of international standards with support for victims virtually non-existent.

While the International Criminal Court may prosecute the occasional case, the vast majority would have to be tried in Congolese courts, the group said.

One woman told HRW how she watched her 13-year old niece being raped by fighters loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda, who launched a short-lived rebellion in the eastern town of Bukavu last June.

"Four men raped her. They had spread her arms and legs and held her down," the woman told HRW.

"I had been with her but hid in a banana tree and watched what happened. Afterward she started to vomit blood. We brought her to hospital and she died two days later."


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