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article imageDRC rape victim: 'The world doesn't care about us' Special

By Miriam Mannak     Apr 16, 2010 in World
A gruesome report by Oxfam International shows that in 2009 over 5000 women were raped in the DRC's South Kivu province, situated of the northeastern part of the country. That comes down to 14 rapes a day.
The survey commissioned by Oxfam International and conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative furthermore shows that 60 percent of the 4100 rape victims surveyed were gang raped by armed men. More than half of assaults took place in the supposed safety of the family home at night, often in the presence of the victim’s husband and children.
One of the rape victims is 27-year old Eugenie. Residing in Cape Town, South Africa, she fled her country a little more than one year ago. Digital Journal spoke to her last year and recalls the conversation.
"The violence became too much, it became too unsafe," she said, before falling silent. Her dark eyes ooze an emptiness that is heartbreaking. "Then I was raped by four soldiers. They raped me all night long, they didn't care if I was in pain. I think I passed out, because when i woke up they were all gone. There was a lot of blood and the room smelled like beer. The only thing they left was some empty bottles. When not too long ago a friend of mine was raped as well, we decided to leave. There is no point of living in a country that has been forgotten by God and where the Devil rules."
The young Congolese woman was infected by the HI virus due to the rape. "I fell pregnant too, but I lost the baby. The doctor says my insides have been damaged because of the rape. Maybe that is a good thing. That child was the result of a crime, a horrible crime. Besides, now that I am sick I am not even sure if I would have been able to take care of it."
6.9 million people killed in 12 years
The wave of rape is one of the symptoms of chronic internal and international conflict, political and social instability, and bloodshed for the past decades. It is estimated that over the past twelve years no less than 6.9 million people lost their lives in the turbulence and every month, a shocking 45 000 lives are added to this figure, writes Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times.
Some say the conflict here is worse than the Holocaust, during which 6 million people were murdered. In terms of deaths that is, and perhaps not in terms of brutality. Most people didn't die directly from acts of violence and brutality: the majority of lives were lost due to diseases such as malaria, cholera, malnutrition, and other preventable causes.
As these are direct consequences and symptoms of the conflict, one could say that the millions of people who died due to lack of food or disease were as much a victim of violence as those who were died as a result of rape, gun fire, machetes, and torture.
These 6.9 million fatalities are only applicable to the northeastern part of the DRC, and excludes fatalities due to conflict in other parts of the country - such as Mbandaka in the northwest of the country. This week, Oxfam decided to pull out of this town after fighting between UN troops, government troops and a rebel group. "Because of the insecurity that prevailed at Mbandaka, we have suspended our activities until the situation stabilises in the region," Oxfam's director in the DRC, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, told journalists.
"Personnel is our greatest capital and we can't place people in danger. Our staff stayed lying on the ground for two days during clashes early this month between Enyele tribal insurgents who wanted to seize Mbandaka airport, the Congolese army and UN troops," he added.
Several conflicts in one
Back to the northeast. The main problem here is that the region has been and still is subjected to multiple forces fighting for what ever it is they want from the region.
First of all, there is the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Being one of the most notorious rebel groups in Africa the LRA led by the Joseph Kony took up arms against the Ugandan government in 1988, with the objective to establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments.
Although Christian, the group is strongly influenced by a blend of mysticism, traditional religion, and witchcraft. Although the LRA operates mainly in northern Uganda, they also have a presence in Sudan, the Central African Republic and since 2005 the DRC.
One of the LRA's last killing sprees in the DRC took place last year December during which, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claim, 321 civilians were massacred in a period of four days. In addition 250 children and teenagers, were abducted.
The Congolese government and the LRA are denying the massacre. "When it comes to victims in the civilian population, the number of victims is no more than 25," DRC's Justice Minister, Lessa Bambi Luzolo, said in a statement. "There were no massacres as stated in the report, but a few people attacked in passing by uncontrolled elements."
Rwanda: Little David takes on the giant
Apart from the LRA's brutalities there is Rwanda. After the end of genocide of 1994, during which Hutu militias killed over 800.000 Tutsi's, two million Hutu's fled into the DRC fearing reprisals against them by the new, Tutsi-dominated government. Although most people had nothing to do with the genocide, quite a few of these 'refugees' were militiamen responsible for the massacres.
These militiamen allied themselves with the government of the previous and late president Mobutu and started to attack ethnic Tutsis residing in the north east of the country. Rwanda's government led by Paul Kagame joined the conflict in an attempt to fight off the Hutu militias and Mobutu's troops while protecting the Tutsi population.
Eventually Rwanda's troops marched all the way to the capital Kinshasa, toppled Mobutu's government, and helped Laurent Kabila senior in the driver seat.
Unfortunately, the violence did not end here as Kabila failed to expel Hutu militias. As a result Rwanda sent troops to oust him. Kabila didn't plan on giving up and called in help from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola.
DRC: the world's treasure chest
Until 2003, all six countries fought a proxy war on Congolese land, according to experts to get a stake in the country's vast natural wealth. Despite the fact that the Congolese are among the poorest people in the world - the annual income per capita is estimated to be no more than $200 - the country is one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources. It harbors vast reserves of copper, cobalt, wolfram, gold, diamonds, uranium, and other valuable natural resources.
Although the war in the northeast of the DRC officially ended in 2003, the region remains one of the most unstable, unsafe regions in the world - in particular for women like Eugenie.
"No one cares about the Congo"
"I know I am not the only one," she said. "There are so many women like me. But what I do not understand is that the world just lets it happen, the rape, the violence. No one seems to care about us. Now they even want to pull out the UN troops. No, No one has cared for the Congo and no one ever will. People only care for what is in the ground."
More about Drc, Oxfam, Conflict congo, Mbandaka
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