News / Africa

Activists Seek More Justice After Congo Rape Sentencing

A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, February 20, 2011
A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, February 20, 2011
Nico Colombant

Civilians, defense lawyers and activists are welcoming the sentencing Monday of an army lieutenant colonel and eight other soldiers in the mass rape of dozens of women in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They say, though, it is just a small step in the fight against rampant rape in the war-torn country.

Hundreds of people jeered at the convicted as they were led away in handcuffs outside the makeshift courtroom in the lakeside Congo village of Baraka.

Defense lawyer Therese Kulungu said in her words "the untouchable has been touched." The reactions followed a military court sentence of between 10 and 20 years in prison for those convicted of a mass rape on New Year's Day in the nearby town of Fizi, in the mineral-rich and lawless South Kivu Province.

The main accused was former rebel-leader Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Kibibi Mutware, who was reintegrated into Congo's army in 2009, as part of long-delayed peace agreements. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of crimes against humanity for ordering his troops to rape, beat and loot the population of Fizi.

Forty-nine victims of the New Year's Day attack testified in court, and as part of the verdict, the senior judge said they should receive up to $10,000 in compensation from the government.

An activist against rapes in the Congo, Lisa Shannon, has been following the trial from the United States. Several years ago, she visited the area where the trial took place and found staggering statistics.

"It was common in women's groups for half of the women to have been gang raped within the last six months," said Shannon. "I visited villages in the area where 90 percent of the women had been raped. In all of the areas I visited in South Kivu, I did not visit communities that identified higher rates of rape than in that area. It was the highest."

She said women face an impossible choice of being stopped by competing groups of armed men and raped while going to farm their fields, or watching their children starve.

Despite growing attention to the problem, rapes are still reported on a regular basis from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, often committed by government soldiers. The medical charity group Doctors Without Borders said it had received credible reports of 30 new rapes last week in areas near Fizi.

Shannon called the trial an enormous first step in dealing with a total lack of justice and a culture of impunity. She said Congolese officials, activists, judges and defense lawyers cannot be expected to reverse this grim reality on their own.

"They are going to need a lot of help for a long time," said Shannon. "Security sector reform in Congo, building a justice system from the ground up, is an enormous task. It is going to take a long time and an enormous amount of support from the international community."

The United Nations, the U.S.-based Open Society Initiative and lawyer groups such as the American Bar Association and Lawyers without Borders helped pay costs and with logistics during the Baraka trial.

A senior legal adviser with the Open Society group, Kelly Askin, said now that the rule of law has started being enforced domestically she hoped the trial would have an impact on deterring future crimes.

One accused soldier was acquitted, and another believed to be 16 will be tried in a juvenile court. The 11 men brought to the court were the only ones identified by victims, but women at the trial said other rapists are still living in their community, including those involved in the New Year's attack. They said they were still being raped if they left their village.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

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