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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More