WTF is going on in the Congo?

Tied to a tree and raped for days. (All photos by Hazel Thompson for the New York Times @2007.)

I don’t think I can bear to read one more story about the horrors of women (and now apparently baby boys, from one month to 18 months old ) being brutalized in the eastern Congo. The latest outrage of almost 200 women being repeatedly gang raped, most in front of their husbands and children, came out in the news last night. Apparently, the farming town of Luvungi was taken over from July 31-August 4 by Congolese Mai-Mai rebels and FDLR rebels, including the Hutu perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide who fled into Congo from Rwanda in 1994. Those groups, along with the Congolese army itself, have been terrorizing the eastern Congo for over a decade with what appears to be complete impunity.

Raped in front of her husband, who was then shot

I’ve been reading about the atrocities against women that have been taking place in the Congo for years… but this story just killed me. The women were gang-raped in a village just 10 miles from a U.N. peacekeepers’ base — peacekeepers who are being kept there, at the cost of $1.35 billion a year, to prevent exactly this kind of thing from happening. Ten miles is about how far I live from downtown Atlanta. It’s nothing. It’s virtually right next door – even in Africa! In fact, the peacekeepers were sent as a military escort to protect a large commercial truck traveling to Luvungi while the rebels were in control of the town.  So why couldn’t they protect the women from the savagery that has befallen more than 200,000  women and girls in this insanely brutal conflict?

Only 3 women of the 200 were able to be treated vs. AIDS or given contraception.

Well, one reason might be the ineffective number of troops. Only 25 peacekeepers were available to hold off 200-400 rebels occupying the town. The other is the huge land mass of the Congo – the country is the size of Western Europe. And finally, there is the sickening trove of wealth that makes the Congo such an irresistible target for every thug nation … starting with Belgium, continuing with U.S. support of the creepy, corrupt Mobutu, and culminating with Africans now fighting over the riches themselves. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal exist in plentiful supply, and as the leader of Luvungi said plaintively, “The minerals are our curse.”

Their bodies are the battleground, and it has to stop.

I really don’t think I can stand more of these stories and I feel bad that I’m subverting my promise to be upbeat and positive with this blog. But something has to change – we have to protect these women and girls—and figure out what it making these men kill and rape their mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers. We can’t let it keep happening.

I’m giving $100 today to V-Day — the activist, human rights organization of big-mouthed, brash, brave and beautiful Eve Ensler (author of the The Vagina Monologues) who has been bewailing these events for years. In 2007, V-Day and UNICEF launched the global campaign Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: to raise awareness of the atrocities, advocate for change and intervention, and create City of Joy to help women survivors rebuild their lives. I think it’s time the world got together and intervened in the Congo. In fact, it’s far, far past time. If we can’t hear women’s hearts, minds and bodies breaking from 10 miles away … well, we’re just not listening. To donate, click here

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On a much brighter note ….

The fabulous Ramona & Charmaine, with an international cadre of friends, have been fundraising for the Fistula Foundation (see post 6/15) and raised $10,000 — enough for 23 operations for women in Ethiopia! I know some of YOU stepped up — so YAY!! What an awesome accomplishment!!

6 thoughts on “WTF is going on in the Congo?

  1. Dearest Betty,
    Having been e-friends since March 30, 2010, having the privilege to have actually talked with you on the phone several times, I HEAR the pain in your words. As a woman in these United States living with AIDS(though not contracted through rape, but thru partner not divulging his previous exposure)….the fear of HIV/AIDS….but much worse in their culture…the humility of being “unclean”, “unworthy”, outcast by any surviving family, villagers…..is unfathomable.
    What this is saying to me is…..United Nations has “Peacekeepers” in token only. Though that is an EXTREMELY expensive token.
    For those of us that can’t afford to give financially, we can certainly give freely(in this country) of our voices.
    Betty you are probably aware of “Care2”. If not, please check their site. It is a site that enables those with passions to start petitions….they are posted on their site, you can go and enter a specific topic….search for petition that fits your passion…..OR IF CAN’T FIND FIT…CAN START ONE OF YOUR OWN!
    I apologize for shouting in your blog…but sometimes we must.
    Though starting or signing a petition seems petty….who knows, enough voices get raised….someone will listen. To tbose of us here in US…..we have elections…..don’t settle for whomever is there…..if they are not representing YOU….get rid of them! Vote in someone else….I’m going to Care2 now and see if there is petition addressing this….if not….look out…here I go again!
    LIVE LIFE! Knowing is Power—>Power to ALL People!
    Wanda

    • right on Wanda. I read somewhere that there were 500? cannibals attacking the women and 10-15 peacemakers….and they can only fire when in the direst straits–not like US law enforcement.
      Rremember being UPBEAT and OUTRAGED aren’t exclusive or contradictory. amy

  2. What exactly is the connection between raping the land for mineral wealth and raping women and children? Are the physical attacks a way to open doors to the riches, as if to say, “We’re here and we can do — and take — whatever we want”? And wouldn’t you expect the UN’s billion-dollar budget to buy a little more protection? You say the Congo is as big as Western Europe, but if this had been happening in Western Europe, the whole world would know about it and something would have been done to stop it a long time ago.

    I agree with Amy: You are being positive, Betty, because you believe humanity is better than this. Shining a light on the hideous situation in the Congo is necessary, and you’re doing that.

  3. I read the article yesterday. Thank you for bringing it up again today. You are being upbeat–upbeat and being depressed and deeply moved by a story aren’t opposites. You’re doing something. Good. What does WTF mean for you?

  4. Betty,

    As horrible as this is, thank you for bringing attention to what’s happening to women and young girls in Congo. The numbers are so staggering, it’s hard to grasp. Millions. More than live in the city of Atlanta.

    Heal Africa is doing some important work in this area. http://www.healafrica.org spotlights individual women and their stories.

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