One rape every minute in Congo

Sydney Morning Herald

A STUDY by American scientists estimates that nearly 2 million women
have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with women
victimised at a rate of nearly one every minute.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is one
of the first comprehensive looks at the prevalence of rape in Congo. It
says that the problem is much bigger and more pervasive than previously
thought. Women have reported alarming levels of sexual abuse in the
capital and in provinces far from Congo’s war-torn east, a sign that the
problem extends beyond the nation’s primary conflict zone.

”Not only is sexual violence more generalised,” the study said,
”but our findings suggest that future policies and programs should
focus on abuse within families.”

For the past 15 years, Congo has been racked by rebel groups that
terrorise civilians, particularly in the east, often to exploit the
country’s mineral riches. UN officials have called Congo the centre of
rape as a weapon of war, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
visited rape victims in eastern Congo in 2009 in an effort to draw more
attention to one of Africa’s most intractable and disturbing conflicts.

Many areas of Congo are inaccessible – cut off by thick forests and
warring groups – and many victims have been too frightened to speak out.

The conclusions in the new study, by three public health researchers –
Amber Peterman of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Tia
Palermo of Stony Brook University and Caryn Bredenkamp of the World
Bank – are based on extrapolations from a household survey done in 2007
of 3436 Congolese women nationwide. The researchers found that around 12
per cent were raped at least once in their lifetime and 3 per cent were
raped in the one-year period before the survey.

Around 22 per cent had been forced by their partners to have sex or
perform sexual acts against their will, the study showed. The women,
aged 15 to 49, were interviewed in a demographic and health survey
partly financed by the US government.

The study’s authors used current population estimates, which put
Congo’s population at around 70 million, to extrapolate that as many as
1.8 million women have been raped, with up to 433,785 raped in the
one-year period – almost a rape a minute.

Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative,
which has sent doctors to Congo to treat rape victims, said that there
were ”some limitations in the methodology, such as the sampling methods
and the sample sizes” of the study. But ”the important message
remains: that rape and sexual slavery have become amazingly commonplace
in this region of the DRC and have defined this conflict as a war
against women.”

The authors believe the rape problem may be worse than their study
suggests. The findings are based on survey results from females of
reproductive age, but many reports and witness accounts have shown that
armed men often gang-rape young girls – some even toddlers – and elderly
women in their 70s and older, in addition to a growing number of men
and boys. Also, many rape victims never report being assaulted because
of the shame and stigma.

Walungu: violences sexuelles, quatre militaires condamnés à mort | Radio Okapi

Quatre condamnations à mort, huit condamnés à 20 ans, un à 7 et un autre à 5 ans de prison ferme, ainsi que trois acquittements, tel est le verdict du tribunal militaire garnison de Bukavu dans le procès en chambre foraine, en territoire de Walungu contre 17 militaires et policiers qui étaient poursuivis pour viols et violences sexuelles.
Le procès a duré dix jours.
Le prononcé a eu lieu samedi au bâtiment de la Police nationale congolaise et devant une foule moins nombreuse.

En plus de leurs peines respectives, les condamnés doivent également payer des dommages intérêts, l’équivalent en francs congolais de 10 000 $ US.
Ils payeront aussi les frais d’instance qui varient entre 10 000 et 50 000 francs congolais, et cela dans un délai de huit jours.
Si ce délai n’est pas respecté, trois mois supplémentaires s’ajouteront à la peine de chaque condamné.
Aussi, chaque condamné a-t-il 5 jours pour aller en appel à la cour militaire.
Par ailleurs, étant donné que ces condamnés éraient sous le drapeau de la RDC au moment des faits, l’Etat congolais est reconnu civilement responsables, et par conséquent, le tribunal militaire lui exige le paiement des frais exigés aux condamnés.
Tous ces condamnés vont purger leurs peines à la prison centrale de Bukavu.

 – Carte de Walungu au Sud-kivu
Carte de Walungu au Sud-kivu

More than 30 women raped and beaten in DR Congo attack

Médecins Sans Frontiéres says women were restrained with ropes before attack in Fizi, South Kivu, in eastern Congo

And if you want to hear the story next time before it happens, read this:

The UN must put its words into action on Congo

The UN must put its words into action on Congo

Over the last month there have been more than 500 sexual assaults reported in eastern Congo, including over 200 in four days in the village of Luvungi, only a short distance from the UN peacekeepers’ compound. Marcel Stoessel says the admission of failure by the UN to protect victims of mass rape must turn into real practical protection of civilians: The scale of these brutal attacks is shocking. They must be the final wake up call to the international community do to more – much more – to improve the security of Congolese people.

Unfortunately, we have been here before. We need more than rhetoric this time. Making ordinary Congolese feel safe must take place on the ground, not just within the corridors of the UN.

Sadly, what happened in Luvungi isn’t an isolated event. Ten days later, up to 130 women were reportedly brutally raped in neighbouring South Kivu. It is reported that this time the Congolese army was also responsible. The government of Congo is first and foremost responsible for protecting its civilians. Local communities in various parts of the country are crying out  for a reform of the national army. This call must be answered.

MONUSCO’s protection obligations are clear– what’s needed is a better enforcement of them. The UN force must go out into the villages, listen and respond to the security needs of Congolese men, women and children. This means driving across conflict-affected regions, getting out of their armoured vehicles and interacting with communities to understand the threats people are facing and how best to protect them.

This is what protecting civilians should be about. Until the Congolese army is reformed, the UN force  is the best bet civilians have for protection.

An Oxfam survey released in July this year found that women interviewed overwhelmingly felt less safe than last year, in a large part due to widespread rape. The survey of 816 people living in 24 communities affected by the ongoing Congolese military operations against militia groups in North and South Kivu revealed that 60 percent of those surveyed felt security had deteriorated, with women and boys feeling particularly at risk.

Last year alone 15,000 women and girls were raped in DRC, with many more going unreported.

More than 150 women in four days or 15,000 in one year – these are numbers which have somehow been normalised in this long-running crisis and one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world.

Watch Marcel talk to Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan about what should be done in Congo:

SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “The UN must put its words into action on Congo”, url: “” });

The world must wake up to the situation in Congo

 Endemic rape, violence and rights abuses make creating an accountable national security service more vital than ever.

How have we got to a place in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where more than 150 women can be gang-raped by rebels in a four-day brutal attack only an hour’s drive from a UN base? It is traumatising simply reading the accounts, reported only this week, of what happened to ordinary people in a series of villages in Luvungi in the eastern part of the country at the beginning of the month.
The often understandable reaction to such extreme violence is to take a deep breath and shake one’s head in disbelief. The response of all us should be extreme anger and outrage at such atrocities. This is not a one-off event outside of human understanding.
Rather, outrageous human rights abuses are a daily reality for many people in eastern Congo, but they are preventable if there were the serious political will to stop them.
Last year alone, 15,000 women and girls were raped in DRC, with many more sex attacks going unreported. More than 150 women in four days or 15,000 in one year? These are numbers that have somehow been normalised in this long-running crisis, one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world.
Since early 2009, the emphasis for the UN Mission and the Congolese army has been on its military offensive against the rebels accused of perpetrating this most recent attack. Protection of local communities at risk of rape has not reached the top of the agenda; in fact, the military operations have put ordinary people at greater risk of attack.
An Oxfam survey released in July this year found that women overwhelmingly felt less safe than last year, in large part due to widespread rape. In the survey, of 816 people living in 24 communities in eastern Congo, 60 per cent of those surveyed felt security had deteriorated, with women and boys feeling particularly at risk.

The uses of an army

While the UN investigation into the Luvungi attack announced this week is a positive move, the scale of this incident must be the final wake-up call to the rest of the world. More, much more, must be done by all to improve security for Congolese children, women and men.
Ordinary people are bearing the brunt of the conflict because of a basic failure by those who have the responsibility to protect them. Today, that means the UN mission and tomorrow the Congolese army.
Improving security requires root-and-branch reforms to the national army and police force, institutions now in disarray. Soldiers lack training and discipline, while sections of the army are themselves perpetrators of widespread abuse, including sexual violence.

The people we work with tell us that the Congolese army is living in pitiful conditions — often deployed without rations, and with wages paid irregularly or stolen by commanders. Such living standards result in abuse and looting against citizens. All the communities surveyed by Oxfam said if soldiers were paid on time it would improve their security.

However, nothing can ever serve as an excuse for rape.
Only when accountable national security services, trained, paid, disciplined and supported, are deployed across the country will there be the possibility of a safe and secure DRC where people feel protected.
In the interim, the UN needs to do the job it’s been given: listening and responding to the security needs of ordinary Congolese people, getting boots on the ground, and working with the Congolese government to get the national army ready for securing peace and security in the long term.

The world must realise that deep suffering is happening every day for ordinary Congolese, and it has to stop.

Marcel Stoessel is Oxfam’s country director for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tags: Congomments from readers
Felim McMahon 
27 August 2010 at 19:27
Possibly the most disturbing aspect of this terrible incident is the role of the UN and the FARDC (Congolese army). The latter continues to be the No 1 perpetrator of human rights abuses in DR Congo, while the former has been impotent in the face of large-scale abuses perpetrated by all sides in its area of operations.
More disturbing still is the reported cooperation between the army and rebel groups in the mineral-rich region of Walikale. Analyst and Congo expert Jason Stearns has detailed these links to the rapes on his blog here:…
Mr Stearns’ report has got closer to the facts behind recent events in Walikale than anyone else who ‘did the story’.
In a nutshell, these rapes appear to have taken place during a rotation of Congolese armed forces, which upset the symbiotic (and mutually profitable) relationship between army and rebels.
Not only did the UN forces not stop this outrage; they are very much part of the landscape in which it takes place.
This debate needs to be about transparency as well as intervention.
swatantra nandanwar 
27 August 2010 at 19:32
Its an absolute disgrace. The Congo is a failed State bar none, ever since its ‘independence’. Its about time the UN stepped in, removed the corrupt Govt and took direct control under the Security Council of Nations. Let them govern it as a UN Mandate. How much longer is the World Community going to stand by and allow States such as the Congo and allow genocide and indiscriminate killings and abuse of its civilians to continue. The neglected people of Congo deserve better.
27 August 2010 at 20:52
Thanks for raising this. It’s reassuring to know that one of my old school media apertures feels it’s an alarm bell worth ringing.
27 August 2010 at 22:01
Congo? Don’t those blasted Belgians run that colony?
The usual leftist dishonesty 
27 August 2010 at 22:30
The average IQ of Sub-Saharan Africa is 68.
Sub-Saharan Africans exhibit a markedly higher sexualisation than other groups.
28 August 2010 at 07:10
i would wake up but I am at the present moment over;oaded by chilliam miners and pakistani swimmers.
Jeez, give my brain a chance, for Gods sake.
The usual leftist dishonesty 
28 August 2010 at 12:42
Please cite the research which proves that the average IQ of Sub-Saharan Africa is the same as Ashkenazic Jewry. Please cote the research which proves that me that Sub-Saharan Africans are identically sexualised to Han Chinese.
If you cannot cite either – and you can’t, of course – please find some way of coping with the truth without bandying your pathetic r-word about. No one gives a damn.
The reason these SSA males rape women and children is first because they have the minds of children and the sexual appetites of a tumescent Greek god, and second because all social constraint has collapsed.
I know you want to find some way of blaming the white man. But that is your own emotional crisis at work, and you really need to find some other way to cope with your condition.
28 August 2010 at 16:44
If only journalists were numerate.
15,000 rapes annually is 15,000 to many, but, if accurate hardly a cause for this sort of article. The equivalent figure for the UK, with a slightly smaller population is 65,000.
No, of course I don’t think the situation in DRC is one quarter as bad as in the UK, but I do think a competent journalist should at least look at a figure before printing it.
Chris Gilliver 
28 August 2010 at 18:27
Can “the usual leftist dishonesty” please cite the evidence for his research. You’re being hypocritical. Also, please cite the research which tells us there’s a link between low IQ and a raised likelihood of rape. Otherwise, take your unfounded, ridiculous opinions elsewhere.
I don’t think that the UN can take the blame for the diabolical atrocities occuring in the DRC, but something absolutely has to be done to improve the situation. Surely we can all agree on this?
Marcel Stoessel 
29 August 2010 at 09:43
15,000 reported rape cases (the small tip of the iceberg), mostly by armed men, are a cause for alarm, outrage, and action, wherever they may happen. I remember a woman, who told me in remote Lubero territory how she witnessed a gang rape of another woman by three armed men. Her children were with her and saw it all. One of the perpetrators inserted his entire fist into the vagina of the woman. She bled to death.
I suspect such a case would get some media coverage in the UK. It is a daily reality in Congo.
thomas vesely 
10 September 2010 at 15:43
you say the west must wake up,but surely,it is up to the congolese to do so.i am so over fact i am over the human race.
11 November 2010 at 09:30
We cannot tolerate the fact that the UN. peacekeepers are one of the main instigators of rape and the sexual spread of AIDS. Fair enough then?

Will Hillary speak out over mass rape in Congo?

As Congo’s rape crisis spirals out of control, Hillary Clinton’s visit must help urge the international community to rethink its support for an offensive that has forced more than 800,000 people to flee their homes, reports Oxfam’s Marcel Stoessel. 

This afternoon I’m supposed to be attending a meeting with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who flew into Congo last night. She’s here to meet victims of sexual violence from the conflict in the east of the country, and to work towards solutions for ending Congo’s rape crisis. She couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time. Rape is widespread here, and cases have increased dramatically in the past few months.

I remember a woman I met in the remote Lubero territory of North Kivu Province. She told me she witnessed a gang rape of another woman by three armed men. It is almost impossible to describe the scenes she told me, but she was so brutally raped that she later died of internal bleeding. The witness, the woman I talked to, fled the area in terror. So did thousands of other unnamed victims in the past few months.

This terrible story happened in a very remote area of eastern Congo, an area Hillary Clinton will not visit today, and an area where UN-backed military operations are ongoing. The perpetrators are often part of an illegal armed group, but equally often they are part of the Congolese army, supported by the UN, which is in turn supported by the US government. They are likely never to be punished. I wish I would be able to relay that story directly to Hillary today, and I am sure she would be as revolted as I was and think the same as I do: that men who commit such abuses, whether they are the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels or members of the Congolese army, should not get away with it. They must know that one day they will be punished and that justice will come to Congo.

Oxfam staff recently conducted a survey of almost 600 civilians in North and South Kivu Provinces. Every single community we spoke to was terrified, and more than half said rape has increased since January, when new military operations began. Thousands of women have been raped since, civilians told us.

The recent phase of these operations, known as “Kimia II”, is now being supported by the UN Security Council and MONUC, the peacekeeping force, which is deployed to protect civilians. Kimia II was supposed to target the FDLR rebel group – which has been responsible for horrific attacks on civilians – and make life better for these communities. But so far, the offensive has had the contrary effect, and rape has surged as a result. Villagers have told Oxfam staff of children as young as four, and even men, also being raped. Many of these rapes are committed by the FDLR, but more than half of the rapes reported in North Kivu were attributed to elements of the Congolese army.

If Hillary Clinton asks me what she can do to reduce rape in eastern Congo, I will tell her first of all that the US government, and the rest of the international community, needs to urgently rethink its support for an offensive that has – according to UN figures – forced more than 800,000 people to flee their homes, and has resulted in rape cases spiralling out of control. The military option must not be the only strategy. It is always the civilians – the women, children and men of Eastern Congo – who pay the highest price for any military operation.

But ultimately, the thousands of rape cases in Congo are symptomatic of wider problems: years of conflict; an undisciplined national army which has not been paid for months; and rampant impunity which sees rapists and attackers rarely if ever brought to justice. The US and others must help establish a political process to address the root causes of the conflict. They must also pressure and support the Congolese government to comprehensively reform its army, police and judicial institutions.

I had the privilege to meet the DRC President, HE President Kabila, in March. He was very open to hear the stories of ordinary civilians, stories that are possibly not always reported to him through his own channels. The President seemed thoroughly committed to ending impunity in his security forces. He told our delegation about the new “zero tolerance” policy for any kind of sexual violence in the ranks of the security forces. Hundreds of thousands of people hope that this policy will turn into reality, although so far only a handful of perpetrators have been arrested. But a long way starts always with the first steps.

I hope that Secretary Clinton will support President Kabila in the implementation of this policy. I hope she will also make sure that the UN Security Council, of which the United States is an important member, will not endorse any support to military operations, which make things worse rather than better for the women and girls of eastern Congo. High-level politicians told me in recent months that “things have to get worse before they get better” in Congo, that the humanitarian fallout of the current operations is the “price for peace” to be paid. Nothing is further from the truth.

The ordinary civilians in these remote and forgotten areas tell us that things have indeed got much worse, but they have little or no hope that they will get any better. The “price for peace”, as the international community seems to want to call it, is too high for them.

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