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Congolese women denounce mass rape and foreign occupation

September 12, 2010

by Marie-Claire Faray and Marie-Louise Pambu

Zaina Niangoma was raped along with her 15-year-old daughter (not pictured) by three soldiers, according to the London Telegraph report dated Sept. 8, 2010. In her Eastern Congo village, 242 women and children were raped in the course of four days while nearby U.N. peacekeepers did nothing. – Photo: AFP/Getty Images
London – We take this opportunity on this day, Sept. 7, 2010, marked by the meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the recent case of mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to denounce this war of low intensity imposed on the Congolese population in the east of their country. The femicide, rape, atrocities and degrading and despicable human insecurity and fear now characterize the climate of life of people in Ituri, North and South Kivu and across the DRC in a strategy and complicity to balkanize the country.

We witness and express on one hand our solidarity and the other our concern for innocent Congolese people, particularly women, old and young girls who fell and still fall under the throes of armed conflict. Many of them live in permanent human insecurity, suffering from sexual and gender-based violence, kidnapped, tortured, raped, starved, wounded and wandering in the forests, mountains, valleys and Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps beyond the borders and fleeing the inhuman treatment they face unfairly. This situation has hurt the very principles that underlie the universal values of human rights, dignity and democracy.

We bitterly regret the numerous reports on the appalling number of victims of violence and crimes committed – truly unprecedented: 5.4 million dead – and no effective protection of people, especially women, has really been provided by the Congolese authorities and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO, formerly known as MONUC), mandated by the UNSC. We recall that for over a decade, the Congolese populations in Ituri, North and South Kivu have been suffering the consequence of the fratricidal conflict between ethnic Rwandans – Hutu and Tutsi – who were exported onto Congolese soil by mandate of Operation Turquoise by the UNSC in 1994.

Under the pretext of self-defense, Rwanda officially invaded the DRC and engaged in genocidal killings of civilians and Congolese and Rwandan refugees and took this opportunity to plunder Congolese natural resources. This incited the greed and lust of other countries bordering the DRC, including Uganda. This in turn gave rise to a regional war on Congolese soil, which included more than seven foreign countries, including the Rwandan and Ugandan armed forces, who fought a fierce battle with international impunity, despite numerous reports of Congolese civilian casualties.

Under the pretext of self-defense, Rwanda officially invaded the DR Congo and engaged in genocidal killings of civilians and Congolese and Rwandan refugees and took this opportunity to plunder Congolese natural resources.

We condemn both the hegemony of certain countries, particularly those under the protection of permanent members of the UNSC, the enslaving, dehumanizing and genocidal practices of capitalist multinationals outlawed in the 21st century, and the complicit silence against this attack on the body and mind of Black Congolese women which destroys the entire Congolese society and prevents communities from having peace and developing and living in dignity and understanding.

Failure to assist persons in danger is a crime, and we accuse the UNSC through MONUSCO, the African Union, the European Union, the countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEAC), the countries of the Great Lakes region of Africa. the East African Community (EAC) and the current Congolese government of committing such crimes against Congolese civilian populations.

We condemn the international, regional, national and local impunity in response to crimes that Congolese women continue to be subjected to along with all sorts of discrimination and violence since 1996, which marked the invasion by foreign forces of DRC.

We call for an end to the occupation of the DRC by foreign forces and the demilitarization and non-legitimization of violence as a means of gaining power in state institutions and the governance of the country.

We call for an end to the occupation of the DRC by foreign forces.

We demand that justice be served to restore the peace and dignity of the Congolese people and ensure the reconciliation of peoples in the Great Lakes Region.

We are calling on permanent members of the UNSC, particularly Britain and the Congolese government, to fulfill the following commitments they have made:

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of Dec. 10, 1948
  • The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols of 1977
  • The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of 1979
  • Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court, on sexual and gender-based violence
  • UNSC Resolutions 1325 and 1820 of 2000 by the U.N. Security Council on Women, Peace and Security

We recall the UNSC Resolution 1674 (2006) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and Resolutions 1493 (2003), 1596 and 1616 (2005), 1698 (2006), 1768 (2007) and 1771 (2007-2008) on arms embargoes against armed groups in Eastern DRC.

On Sept. 3, 2010, a Congolese woman walks down the main road in the village of Luvungi, where 242 women and children were raped in late July. – Photo: AFP/Getty Images
We invoke UNSC Resolution 1756 (2007) on the situation in DRC, which established a link between armed conflicts, exploitation of natural resources, multinational companies and rape and sexual violence against women and girls used as a weapon of strategic warfare by armed groups.

We cite UNSC Resolution 1794 (2007), which stresses that the protection of civilians must be given priority when deciding on the use and capabilities of available resources and states that the U.N. Security Council Mission must use all necessary means to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

We evoke the 2008 report published by U.N. experts showing the involvement of several Western companies and nationals in the financing of the conflicts in eastern DRC and in particular the rebel movements. UNSC Resolution 1857 extended the financial and travel measures provided for in Resolution 1807 (2008) to “individuals or entities supporting the illegal armed groups in the eastern part of the DR Congo through illicit trade of natural resources.” UNSC Resolution 1896 renewed these sanctions.

We invoke U.N. Resolution 1756 (2007), which established a link between armed conflicts, exploitation of natural resources, multinational companies and rape and sexual violence against women and girls used as a weapon of strategic warfare by armed groups.

We mention the new leaked U.N. report, “Mapping Exercise,” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in accord with Resolution 1794 (2007), concerning serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed between March 1993 and June 2003 on Congolese territory.

We demand the implementation of Article 5 of the Rome Statute under the jurisdiction of the court over crimes committed in the DRC, facing what is defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8:

1) Article 6: On the definition of crimes of genocide, including points (b) on bodily or mental harm, (c) on inflicting destructive life conditions and (d) on imposing measure to prevent births

2) Article 7: On the definition of crimes against humanity, including points (g) on sexual violence, (h) on persecution and (d) on forced displacement

3) Article 8: On the definition of war crimes

It is time for reason, morality and human dignity to prevail over profit and injustice in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. The blood of innocent victims is flowing and will only stop with justice and the restoration of peace.

The U.K. government is currently one of the largest donors of funding assistance to the DRC and is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

We recall that in the 2008 U.N. expert report, Afrimex, a U.K.-based company, was found in breach of the the guidelines of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for sourcing from two territories with links to the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma) rebel group and for making “tax” payments to the same group. Similarly found to have breached OECD guidelines was the Amalgamated Metal Corp. (AMC) Group that includes four U.K.-based entities: AMCO Investments Ltd., Amalgamated Metal Corp. PLC, Amalgamated Metal Investment Holdings Ltd. and British Amalgamated Metal Investments Ltd.

As residents and members of British society, we call on the British government, a member of the UNSC, to demonstrate the political will to end armed conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the consequent violence against civilians, particularly sexual violence. We ask this government to commit to enforcing the OECD guidelines that are violated by multinational companies based in Great Britain, quoted in the U.N. experts’ report on the exploitation of Congolese natural resources and listed on the London Stock Exchange.

We demand justice and reparations for Congolese women as well as other civilians in the DRC and the Great Lakes region of Africa. We encourage the British government to double efforts through the support of institution building that ensure the sovereignty of the rule of law, social transformation and human development in DRC.

To learn more, contact Common Cause UK and the Platform of Congolese Women in the UK by writing to Common Cause UK, The Froud Centre, No 1 Toronto Road, Manor Park, London E12 5JF, emailing commoncauseuk@hotmail.co.uk or phoning 790 487 5970 (French) or 079 3982 2625 (English).

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6 thoughts on “Congolese women denounce mass rape and foreign occupation

  1. Ash

    While many of these points are valid, they go little beyond highlighting the actual situation. While there is no disagreement that the humanitarian situation is unacceptable in Eastern DRC, the causes are complex and multiple.

    You need to recognise that the UN Group of Experts report has no legal force, and to overly focus on the relatively minor role of multinationals in the conflict risks obscuring the greater issues and oversimplifying the problematic (I’m not saying that it doesn’t need to be addressed, just not at the expense of the ‘political capital’ that you so rightly say needs to be devoted to the issue).

    Demanding an end to conflict is also all very well but not something that the British Government can provide, and most NGOs in East DRC are actually calling on the government and its backers to end their efforts to resolve the conflict and the problem of armed groups by largely military means, as these are doing more harm than good.

    Finally to talk about the ‘occupation of the DRC by foreign forces’ is fall into a popular political trap of a Congolese political establishment who jump at any chance to pass off the problems of the country as resulting from the actions of someone else. The FDLR, presumably the group that you are talking about, and the ADF-NALU are the only groups that originated largely from non-Congolese elements, but these groups today are largely like other armed groups, primarily composed of Congolese youths and without a real political affiliation or agenda, except insofaras it promotes their short-term and economic interests.

    To reduce the problematic of armed groups to a foreigner issue is to miss the point entirely of the huge well of disaffected and massively poor Congolese youth in the East, which together with a history and existing structures of armed groups and large number of small arms in circulation means that joining one of these groups continues to be an attractive option for these individuals, while having hugely negative impacts on the society as a whole.

    The problems of East DRC need to be accepted by all Congolese as a primarily Congolese problem, and the root causes rather than the most visible manifestations of the problem need to be addressed as part of any solution, causes such as unacceptable levels of poverty, accessibility of small arms, and a dysfunctional political system.

    Reply
    1. congocoalition

      To Ash.
      I don't know who you are; who are you working or talking for. You sound like most of the corrupted people we(congoleses) face this day across the USA. You blame the victims and cover up the criminals,provide no path to solve this conflict ; make it look like a complex , unstoppable and a necessary war( causes are complex and multiple). you are a liar, racist and evil . You should shut up.
      You call the multinationals role in this conflict minor? please. The multinationals provide small arms to militias, influence the international community and use the medias ( they control them) and corrupted people like you to cover up or alter the truth story about congo tragedy.
      What is the actual situation in congo?for the last 17 years: more than 5.5 million killed, over 300,000 men,women and children gang raped, 2 million plus internally displaced. Any responsible human been and government should act as the world did during the second world war, but you think the british government can not provide the end of this atrocities. Tony blair(british government) and Bill Clinton administration provided a lot for the invasion and occupation of congo DR by Rwanda , uganda and burundi.
      You are a liar ADF-NALU ( ugandan )and FDLR( rwandan) are not primarily composed of congolese youths, indeed there are not congoleses among ADF-NALU or FDLR. they kill and rape congolese and confiscate their land. how can they cohabited together?.
      You can not force congoleses to accept what is not truth. unacceptable levels of poverty is all over congo so is the accessibility of small arms(provide by the multinationals), the dysfunctional political system(imposed to us by the USA,UK , EU and UN) affect all regions in congo. But We don't massive killing or rape in the other part of the congo, only in the part border with Rwanda and Uganda , two congo aggressors sponsored by USA and UK.We know the truth and we will fight for it.

      Reply
  2. Mama Kongo

    The DRC government has a responsability to protect and to provide human security to its populations; however if this government is not accaountable and fail that responsability, we turn to the UN SC..but the permanent members are demonstrating an astonishing lack of political will to end a decade of human insecurity due to small arms and intenrational exploitation of natural ressources fuelling conflict in the DRC, because all of these countries are benefitting from this instability.
    Congolese Youth have grown in a situation where violence was legitimised by the AFDL, RDC Goma, MLC and other foreign backed group eager to take power , with international support for the control of the DRC natural ressources.

    Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC are governed by leaders of rebel armed groups who are now using the populations as a tool to wind each other, while the UNSC continue to onserve and reports, while people are dying. All the rebels groups are backed by different governmemts in the great lakes region of the DRC , waging war to each other over the control of oil, gold, coltan ect…..

    Bosco Ntangana, an international recognised criminal (ICC warrant), is officially working with the UN and the DRC government. The DRC is under occupation and the N SC has legitimised violence as way to power in that region.

    What massage does this sent to the so called youth in the area? Violence works and pays.

    The UN SC through MONUC is hugely responsible for failing to protect civilians; we saw it particularly when it really mattered. We all know why Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara were killed. We know how people are being intimidated and corrupt by Mulitnational corporation illegally exploiting natural ressources and benefitting from the trade of small arms/ amunitions in the DRC.
    So the complexity of the situation is in the mind of those who refuse to see that for centuries Congolese Youth have been denied the opportunity to live in peace and secuirty as well as to reach their potential to to work for the development of the DRC. Peace and Justice be on the DRC.

    Reply
    1. congoc

      I agree with you Maman Kongo. The DRC is under occupation. The current president of DR of Congo is a rwandan HYPPOLITE KANAMBE aka JOSEPH KABILA. He refutes the UN report, refused to hand over Bosco Ntangana to the ICC(injustice colonial court), He incorporated hundred of thousand rwandan soldiers(from RCD and CNDP) into congoleses army, so that they can operate ( kill, rape, loot )under congoleses uniform. Civil society of kivu has been asking for those soldiers( ex RCD or CNDP) to be removed from their entities, They speak Kinyarwandan , They have their own administration and report to rwanda.Where is Nkunda? He is living peacefully in his country rwanda. Hyppolite kanambe aka joseph kabila does not bother to ask for Nkunda extradition to congo to face justice.
      WE WON'T FORGIVE NOR FORGET

      Reply
  3. Ann_Garrison

    @Ash: These women didn't even mention the FDLR and I see no reason to believe that's who they meant by "foreign forces." They referred instead too:

    ". . . MONUSCO (formerly MONUC), the African Union, the European Union, the countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEAC), the Great Lakes of Africa. the East African Community (EAC) and the current Congolese government. . . committing such crimes against Congolese civilian populations."

    ". . . the hegemony of certain countries, particularly those under the protection of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the enslaving, dehumanizing and genocidal practices of capitalist multinationals outlawed in the 21st century, and the complicit silence against this attack on the body and mind of Black Congolese women."

    Not a word there about the FDLR, and I'm quite sure that's not who they're talking about because the FDLR is not "a country with the protection of the Security Council," nor is it a part of "MONUC, the AU, the EU, the CEAC, the EAC, or the current Congolese government," nor is it a "capitalist multinational."

    Reply
  4. Cami *Amani*

    Ash,
    Referring to the Congolese youth in the east, and you state…

    "joining one of these groups continues to be an attractive option for these individuals", I must wonder if you have actually been there. Because I have and I strongly disagree with you. The youth have witnessed atrocities committed against their mothers and sisters. They have NO desire to JOIN the barbarians. Their desire is for peace and stability, for education and opportunity, for a future without fear.

    Also to say "problems of East DRC need to be accepted by all Congolese as a primarily Congolese problem" is not only wrong, but disgusting as well. Do you have a computer, a laptop, a cell phone? We ALL do and we ALL bear some responsibility towards the innocent civilians who suffer because of the greed and plunder that the western countries are feeding with the Congo's massive mineral wealth. We may not have started it, but we can end it. If we intent to call ourselves human, we MUST stop the rape, pluder, killing, kidnapping and exploitation of our fellow human beings!

    Reply

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