Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Meanwhile, in Congo. May TRIGGER.

New evidence of the use of rape as a weapon of war has emerged. The details are disgusting:

The additional sexual attacks, in an area called Uvira and other regions of North and South Kivu, came to light during Khare's trip. He told council members he learned of 74 cases of sexual violence, including against 21 minors — all girls between the ages of 7 and 15 — and six men, in a village called Miki, in South Kivu. All the women in another village, Kiluma, may have been systematically raped, he said.

Khare said in a community called Katalukulu, 10 women were raped by Congolese soldiers, which he said must "maintain a much higher standard of discipline, good behavior and conduct, and observance of human rights."

Altogether, he detailed new reports of mass rapes on various communities that added up to at least 267.

So both the rebels AND the Congolese army gang-rape (mostly) women as "a weapon of war". How does this work, exactly? Presumably those women are not in the Congolese army and most likely the majority of the victims don't belong to the rebels, either. They would seem to be innocent bystanders whose rapes are then turned into "weapons of war."

But is it war if the victims are mostly civilians on neither side of the battle? I'd call it something else: hate crimes against women.

These rapes are in the news because the U.N. admitted to a failure in how it has handled the case:

The United Nations today admitted that it had "failed" to prevent the systematic rape of hundreds of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo this summer by rebel forces, and then failed to go public with the information on the mass atrocities committed over four days.

The U.N. said more than 500 systematic rapes were committed in eastern Congo since late July, more than double the number that had been previously reported.

"Our actions were not adequate, resulting in the unacceptable brutalization of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better," said Atul Khare, a senior official in the U.N. peacekeeping operations, which had troops as close as 10 miles from some of the assailed villages.

Well, yes. But surely the Congolese rebels and soldiers should do better, too?

Few topics make me as angry as this one, and here is why:

The top U.N. official to prevent sexual violence, Margaret Wallstrom, quoted one raped woman as describing that the victims had been "forced to live through something like never before."


Describing how common rape is in the country, Wallstrom said that some Congolese women have concluded that "being gang raped by many men is normal for a woman."

Sure. It's all in a day's work: Get up, fetch the water, start the fire, cook the meal, get gang-raped...