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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid