White woman’s burden: Angelina Jolie, the G8 and rape in the DRC

by Ann Garrison

Pacifica, WBAI, AfrobeatRadio broadcast April 13, 2013

WBAI AfrobeatRadio Host Wuyi Jacobs: On Thursday, in a performance that raised eyebrows and caused teeth gnashing among Congolese peace and justice activists, movie actress Angelina Jolie thanked leaders of the G8 summit for their effort to end sexual violence in war. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.

AfrobeatRadio/Ann Garrison: At the end of March, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and movie actress Angelina Jolie flew to Rwanda, where Hague was photographed shaking hands with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Rwandan Foreign Secretary Louise Mushikiwabo then told the press that good relations between the U.K. and Rwanda had been restored. Last year the government of the U.K. had slashed aid to Kagame’s administration because of U.N. reports that it was funding, arming and commanding the M23 militia waging war in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, other G8 leaders, Angelina Jolie 041113 byIn a September 2012 report, Human Rights Watch wrote that Rwanda was recruiting troops to cross the border to join M23 and that M23 was responsible for summary executions, forced recruitment and the rape of at least 46 women and girls, the youngest of whom was 8 years old. Human Rights Watch also wrote that M23 fighters had shot dead a 25-year-old pregnant woman who resisted rape, wounded two other women who eventually died of their wounds while raping them, and poured fuel between the legs of one of their victims and lit the fuel on fire.

Nevertheless, after British Foreign Secretary Hague had reportedly re-established good relations with the Kagame administration, he and Jolie crossed the border to visit rape victims in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and generate headlines about their campaign to end the use of rape as a weapon of war.

On Thursday this week, Jolie thanked the G8 summit of the world’s eight wealthiest nations for their commitment and contribution of $35 million to the cause and said that the use of rape as a weapon could be ended.

Angelina Jolie: Hundreds and thousands of women and children have been sexually assaulted, tortured or forced into sexual slavery in the wars of our generation. Time and again the world has failed to prevent this abuse or to hold attackers accountable. Rape has been treated as something that simply happens in war. Perpetrators have learned that they can get away with it and victims have been denied justice. But wartime rape is not inevitable. This violence can be prevented and it must be confronted.

WBAI/AfrobeatRadio: Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention has, since 1949, explicitly prohibited wartime rape and enforced prostitution, but Jolie also thanked the G8 for promising to take this seriously.

Angelina Jolie: So I welcome the pledge by the G8 to regard rape and sexual violence in armed conflict as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

BK KumbiWBAI/AfrobeatRadio: BK Kumbi, a Congolese woman, historian and activist in Geneva, told KPFA that she does not appreciate Jolie’s activism.

BK Kumbi: Well, I think that Angelina Jolie should learn a little bit more about Congo and the real issues that are going on in this part of the world. There is a tragedy and what she’s doing, actually, is just assuming a side of the story that is said by the Western powers, and we don’t see anything good coming out of that. So I think that her speech ends up inflaming emotions against Congolese men and somehow just makes the world forget about the role played by Rwanda in this tragedy.

WBAI/AfrobeatRadio: That was BK Kumbi, who will be speaking to WBAI AfrobeatRadio in a longer conversation soon about how the big powers divert attention from the root causes of war in Congo by focusing on the singular issue of rape and violence against women.

For Pacifica, WBAI and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at ann@afrobeatradio.com. If you want to see Ann Garrison’s independent reporting continue, please contribute on her website at anngarrison.com.