Friday, April 12, 2013

D.R. Congo / Rape as a Crime against Humanity

"Congo: an army sergeant who says he was ordered to rape by his commanding officer." (Fiona Lloyd-Davies)
Congo: We Did Whatever We Wanted, Says Soldier Who Raped 53 Women
By Pete Jones
The Guardian, April 11, 2013
"In a small house on a hill overlooking Lake Kivu, a young Congolese soldier recounts the crimes he and his comrades committed in Minova a few months ago. 'Twenty-five of us gathered together and said we should rape 10 women each, and we did it,' he said. 'I've raped 53 women. And children of five or six years old. I didn't rape because I am angry, but because it gave us a lot of pleasure,' says 22-year-old Mateso (not his real name). 'When we arrived here we met a lot of women. We could do whatever we wanted.' As William Hague unveiled a sexual violence prevention strategy at a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in London this week, what happened in Minova is a stark reminder of the huge challenges facing those seeking to solve the problem of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo . On 22 November last year thousands of exhausted, battered and bruised Congolese army troops descended on the town having just lost a battle with the rebel M23 fighters in Goma, the main city in eastern Congo some 30 miles away. Their retreat was haphazard and chaotic. The soldiers were embarrassed, angry, upset and out of control; their commanders had disappeared and the battalion and regiment structures had disintegrated. When they arrived in Minova they were drunk, hungry and violent. The locals suffered two nightmarish days of looting, rape and murder before the army restored some discipline among its troops. Hundreds of women were raped.
It is impossible to accurately state the number of cases as victims often fail to come forward, fearing that their communities and even their husbands will reject them, but hospital director Dr Ghislain Kassongo said he dealt with well over 100 women with rape-related injuries after the army rampage. At a rape victim refuge centre a couple of miles from Minova, Nzigire Chibalonza, 60, tells what happened when the soldiers came to her shop. 'They beat us and beat us, and then they started to rape. Three men raped me -- two from the front and one from behind,' she says, tears welling in her eyes as she nervously grabs and twists fistfuls of her dress. My head is still not right. I thought I had Aids, and now my husband mocks me. He calls me the wife of a soldier, he has rejected me,' she says. The refuge centre, set up and run by a woman who was herself a multiple rape victim, is the only place she has to go. It is home to a traumatised but resilient community of women who work and care for each other. One of the victims who spoke to the Guardian there was just 14. [...]"

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