News / Africa

Activists Press for Better Help to End Congo Rapes

Justine Masika Bihamba is fighting against Congo's conflict-related rapes, Sep 2010
Justine Masika Bihamba is fighting against Congo's conflict-related rapes, Sep 2010

As  U.N. Special Representative for Sexual Violence In Conflict Margot Wallstrom embarks on a new trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, two activists recently concluded lobbying efforts in the United States for more effective action on trying to end conflict-related rapes in Congo.

One of them, Justine Masika Bihamba, told a gathering of Washington, D.C., university students and concerned citizens that the area in which she works, Beni, in North Kivu province, is still overrun by Ugandan rebels who regularly rape women.

She said in these situations women are considered victims, and are not implicated in the search for peace.

Striving for peace in the region

Bihamba coordinates an organization called the Synergy of Women Against Sexual Violence.  Counselors with the group have been attacked and threatened because of their work.  When Bihamba was at work one day, Congolese soldiers attacked her home, and sexually assaulted one of her daughters.

Bihamba explained that what is needed - above all - is peace in eastern Congo.  She said she believes sexual crimes would go down drastically if fighting stopped.

Activist Donatella Rostagno, from the European network for Central Africa, accompanied Bihamba on her trip to the United States.  She said she supports the work being done by the U.N. special representative for sexual violence in conflict.  Rostagno also said feels, however, the international community is not doing enough to stop Congo's war, despite having a large U.N. peacekeeping mission there.

"The majority of the actions is made to look at the consequences, to work with the women who are victims, but not enough is done to look at the causes of the rapes and the conflict," said Rostagno.

Deteriorating situation amid global concern

She fears the overall situation in eastern Congo is getting worse, not better - despite the international attention - with rebels, militias, and renegade soldiers still running rampant.

"A lot of these rebel groups are getting reorganized, and are even getting in a coalition so the movements that we see in the region, it is worrying us," said Rostagno.  "I think we were more optimistic on this region six months ago than today."

The United Nations has identified three armed groups that gang raped dozens of people about two months ago in a week-long attack in Luvungi, another part of North Kivu province.  Those implicated are the Mai Mai Cheka, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, and followers of an army deserter, Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva.

Proposals for improvement

During their presentation, the two activists, Bihamba and Rostagno, also offered concrete proposals to make the situation better.  

Rostagno explained that foreign non-governmental organizations get funding to tackle the issue of sexual violence, but local organizations often get ignored.  She said complex applications to get outside funding favor bigger organizations.

"They can just do it, they send it, they receive the money.  The problem is that the money in most cases is spent to pay for the fixed cost of the organization, for the salaries of expat people coming to the region and to the country, while the local non-governmental organizations, those working with the communities, with the women, with the children, in the villages, those who need need money to survive in order to do their work do not have access," said Rostagno.

Bihamba said Congolese soldiers should be paid directly through bank withdrawals, rather than being paid through their superiors.  Bihamba said with the current system they receive only about a third of their salary, which causes some soldiers to loot and rape.

She also called for an international tribunal for the Congo to help end general impunity, as well as more local tribunals for raped victims to seek justice.  In North Kivu, where more than 5 million people are estimated to live, she said there are only three tribunals.


You May Like

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid