Saturday, September 11, 2010

Outrage over Gang Rapes in DR Congo

Because the heart of the cross is redeeming justice, this former news reporter's conscience forces me to depart in this post from Gracious Interiors' normally pleasant topics. Instead, I want to motivate women to take action on an international news story they might have missed while they were vacationing.

In late August, world headlines reported:

UN investigates claims of mass rape by DR Congo rebels

This sexual violence took place from July 30 to August 3 in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On September 3, International Medical Corps' regional coordinator, Miel Hendrickson, reported that their team has treated nearly 250 women who were raped in front of their husbands and children by groups of from two to six men. 
A week later, the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (an international association of fourteen social justice organizations) claimed the number of rapes now stands at over 500, including 28 perpetrated on children.

Such horror calls for more than private sorrow; we must flood the United Nations with pleas to do more than offer strongly worded statements of condemnation.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has made combating sexual violence a major theme of his tenure.  

The statistics in the DRC are horrendous. According to Voice of America News, about 15,000 women, children, boys and men are raped in the country each year. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported more than 9,000 cases of rape last year in North and South Kivu provinces alone.

Ironically, the government of the DRC touts the fact that over the past fifteen years, they have reduced rapes from 42 a day to 14 a day. However, sexual violence is used as a weapon-of-war by all sides--FDLR rebels, the Mai Mai militia, and members of the Congolese army.

In fact, the Voice of America News reported on Thursday that "in a recent study carried out by OXFAM in North and South Kivu," it was found that elements of the Congolese army were "identified by the communities as the number one perpetrator of sexual violence."

 Democratic Republic of Congo flag
Undeniably, the government of the DRC is responsible to bring all perpetrators to justice. However, international organizations must also apply pressure. 

In this case, the UN is not without a measure of complicity. The UN peacekeeping force in the Congo at first claimed they learned of the rapes on August 12, but an internal e-mail alert sent from the UN Department of Safety and Security was sent to UN staff members on July 30, the day the rapes began, warning them "to stay away from the area."

Inner City Press, a watchdog agency covering the United Nations, reported that peacekeepers in fact, decided to "head away from the village with their patrol."

More damning yet, another United Nations officer told The New York Times that a subsequent fact-finding UN team heard from witnesses that peacekeepers had been in the area on August 2, while the rapes were still taking place.

The UN official in the DRC charged with the UN's Organization for Stabilization mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) is Roger Meece, former US ambassador to Kinshasa.  Meece just assumed the MONUSCO leadership in early June.

When he was asked why Margot Wallström, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, was not told of the mass rapes for ten days until August 21 or 22, when they were known in the international press by at least August 12, he indicated that she was in Europe at the time.
Subsequently, Wallström strongly stated that these recent events “affirm that sexual violence should never again be dismissed as random, cultural, or inevitable” pointing out that in this case “systematic rape was planned, and therefore preventable.”

She put on notice political and military leaders of the armed groups responsible for the rapes informing them that the issue of sexual violence is being elevated on the agendas of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Security Council, and that “acts of widespread and systematic sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

However, actions must accompany words.  Those who are concerned about international justice should write the UN to urge serious consequences for the e-mail's author and for those UN officials charged with peacekeeping-oversight when these horrors were committed.  If we aren't serious about demanding punishment for failure to prevent such atrocities, how can we expect the DRC leaders to bring consequential, forceful legal action against perpetrators?

Office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations
760 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

To tangibly help with medical treatment for victims, support non-government agencies such as:  
International Medical Corps 
1919 Santa Monica Blvd.Suite 400
Santa Monica, CA 90404

or give to an evangelical mission working in Congo: 
Congo Relief Fund, Project 91025.

(For a vivid presentation "France 24 presents "Rape in Congo", the first-of-its-kind interactive documentary designed exclusively for the Apple iPad".  Simply download-- "Rape in Congo: Violated Peace.")

Ignoring such crimes is not an option. The UN must be pressured by citizens of the world to do more than issue statements; they must feel international outrage so they will take forceful action.

God explicitly tells us what is good and what he requires:  "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).


  1. Thank you, Maurie. A worthy departure. Thank you for the specific information for action.

  2. There are no words to express how I feel about the atrocities done to these people. It was not just the women who have been hurt but their poor husbands and very sad.

    I had not heard this. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.