Friday, September 17, 2010

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Violence Spirals Out of Control in East Congo
By Michelle Fault, September 17, 2010
"First the rebel soldiers told residents of the villages in the mineral-rich eastern Congo not to worry. They were just there for a rest and would do no harm. But as dusk fell, the fighters encircled five villages simultaneously, and the gang rapes began. Six or seven men lined up to take their turn. The victims ranged from a month-old baby boy to a 110-year-old great great-grandmother. They forced husbands and children to watch as they gang-raped the villagers for four days. Some victims told doctors the fighters raped them with their fists, saying 'We're looking for the gold.' It took days for help to arrive, even though the villages are 12 miles (20 kilometers) from a camp of UN peacekeepers from India. The UN says the peacekeepers actually drove through one of the villages while it was being held by the fighters, but said peacekeepers took no action because no one told them what was going on. Violence is reaching new levels of savagery and spiraling out of control in this corner of Congo, where the competition for control of mineral resources has drawn in several armed groups, including the Congolese army. Rape has become a military strategy by the various groups of fighters to intimidate, punish and control the population in the mining areas.
News of the most brutal gang rapes in eastern Congo came in August, bringing international outrage. The UN said more than 500 women were raped in that period, and Buna Altunbas, a regional director for Doctors Without Borders, said some Congolese women have been raped repeatedly. The victims from the five villages near Walikale alone number about 250, with more coming for treatment this week, said Dr. Chris Baguma of Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps, and he expects the toll to rise. Some have infections resistant to antibiotics, he said. At the local hospital, there are no kits to test for HIV. 'I have seen many, many cases of rapes and many cases of medical emergencies, but I have never seen anything so planned, so systematic, so animalistic,' Baguma said. No one was killed in the attack and the villages are so poor that there is little to loot, leaving people to conclude that the rapes, and forcing families to watch, was some form of punishment -- for what no one is sure. [...]"

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