Brutal Rapes and Murders in DRC

By JOY WANJA jwanja@ke.nationmedia.comPosted Monday, December 20 2010 at 18:00

Congolese women prepare to protest rape in their country.  According to the , According to the UN, over 200,000 cases of sexual  violence have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Photo /  William Oeri

Congolese women prepare to protest rape in their country. According to the , According to the UN, over 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo / William Oeri

It has never known political stability after the Belgian coloniser bolted out town. It has never enjoyed real prosperity in spite of being one of the richest countries in the world, resource-wise. It is Africa’s third largest country and yet it cannot defend its borders. And now it has won the unenviable accolade of the rape capital of the world.

Welcome to the Democratic Republic of Congo where few women are safe from the animal side of men.

Last week the women the rest Africa joined them in solidarity against rape.

Where else in the world do sons rape their sisters and mothers? Only in Rutshuru, Congo, they sang as they marched on the streets of Goma.

In this former Belgian colony the victims of rape fall short of accepting the beastly act as a way of life rather than a heinous crime.

Forty-two year old Justine Bolingo (not her real name) narrated her experience to DN2 in Goma last week. Her story in her own words:

“It was August this year. I was at my farm in Walikale with my husband tending to beans. Three men emerged from the thickets, surrounded us, and ordered us to lie on the ground.

‘Should we kill or rape you?’ The men shouted as they ordered us, corking guns as they displayed knives strapped on their waists. We gave in and froze to the ground.

Pinning my husband down with a gun on his head, the men in military uniform took turns at me as they mocked my husband. They forced my husband to watch as they destroyed my reproductive organs.

I looked into my husband’s eyes and the tears of pain were those of a man, helpless and defenseless. He seemed to be apologising for failing to protect me from the beasts.

After they were satisfied, they later blew his brains and asked me to look at the shattered head.

The man who shot my husband later said he wanted to join in the ‘catch’ and thus handed over the gun to his counterpart and pinned me on the ground. During the ordeal, the other men sprayed my husband’s body with bullets and cut off his hand which they later brought by my side.

They asked me to shake my husband’s detached hand as a sign to bid him goodbye.”

Later the animals assaulted her private with sticks and now she suffers from fistula. A fistula is a hole in the birth canal that leads to involuntary urination or defecation if not treated. The five men later retreated to the forest.

“When I came to three days later, I was in a hospital bed and swathed in bandages. There were other women in the same room who had undergone the same excruciating ordeal,” she recalls.

“My in-laws have warned me against returning home because I am considered unclean after the ordeal. I have not seen my children for the past eleven months and my worry is that the same cruel men might have raped my three daughters as well. God is now the father and protector of my family.

I can neither trust the government, nor my fellow villagers — not even the peace keepers. I have undergone three reconstructive surgeries and I’m yet to recover fully. Though I get constant flashbacks about the incident, I am glad to be alive.”

Justine is one of the survivors of the Walikale mass rape in August this year when rebels attacked the town in the mineral-rich eastern DRC, systematically raping women, children and some men for four days.

Walikale is home to the largest tin deposits in the Congo and large gold mines as well.

However, despite the presence of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the women, girls, — and some men, live in fear. Their own armed forces and the UN have failed to protect them fully.

According to MONUSCO figures, over 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo and countless more have gone undocumented since the Great Lakes conflict began in 1996.

However, the MONUSCO head, Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, says escorting women to their farms and security advise have reduced the incidence of rape.

“We patrol the areas and issue security advisories in high-risk areas,” Ms Sellassie said.

The Great Lakes crisis began when elements that had committed acts of genocide fled the neighbouring Rwanda in 1994 as the Paul Kagame-led Rwandese Patriotic Front rebel force took charge of the country.

The new regime in Kigali pursued them to their refugee camps in Eastern DRC, prompting them to strike back in 1996, setting off a regional war.

Now tens of thousands of women and children have been abducted and raped in eastern Congo in the past decade as a way to instill fear in the rural communities.

Despite a lull in the fighting, rape cases are still reported with the most recent ones in August this year.

Although rape attracts 20 years in prison, few rapist here have been punished thus the survivors continue to live in fear.

However, General Mayala Vainquer, who is in charge of the military in the North Kivu Province where the mass rapes occurred, says there were only four cases reported against the 200-figure that is often quoted.

A combination of impunity and the normalisation of rape in a society exposed to sexual violence over the past two decades is one of the challenges facing organisations that seek to liberate the DRC woman.

“We appreciate the solidarity visit of the women from this region and we will uplift the spirits of those women who were violated,” says North Kivu Province Vice Governor Feller Lutaichirwa Mulwahale.

The Governor pointed out that electing and nominating women to positions of leadership was one of the ways of empowering the population.
Men were also raped during the attacks but they are too embarrassed to seek counselling.

More than five million people have died during fighting in the DRC dating back to the mid-1990s. The conflict remains one of the longest- running, and deadliest, in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, the DRC government and the military give conflicting figures on rape victims.

A joint effort by MONUSCO North Kivu Brigade and the Government of DRC, on October, 5 in Walikale resulted in the arrest of “Lt-Col” Mayele, a member of the Mai Mai Cheka group.

“Lt-Col” Mayele is suspected, along with other people, of ordering the mass rapes and other human rights violations which were committed between 30 July and August 2, 2010 in Walikale territory, North Kivu.

According to the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office’s preliminary report, a coalition of about 200 Mai Mai Cheka, FDLR, and elements of Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, former FARDC and ex-CNDP rebels, committed these acts against at least 303 civilians, including 235 women, 13 men, 52 girls and three boys.

With the surge in the rape cases, the DRC women clutch on the Congolese proverb; ‘No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come’

 

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