31 Jul 2007
The Special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council on violence against women Yakin Ertuk has lamented the plight of women in the war torn Eastern DR Congo.
The U.N investigator was quoted by Reuters Monday as saying that rape and brutality against the female folk in DR Congo was “rampant and committed by non-state armed groups, the Armed Forces of the DRC, the National Congolese Police, and increasingly also by civilians.” Ms Erturk added that some 4500 cases of rape have been reported so far in the small South Kivu region alone this year. South Kivu borders Rwanda and Burundi and constitutes less than a sixth of Congo’s surface area.
This region of Congo is part of the area into which fleeing Hutus poured after the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. South Kivu, North Kivu and the Ituri region have since then been in the frontline of Congo’s decade old civil war- a conflict that was supposed to have ended after elections were organized last year.
Like previous reports on sexual violence in Congo, Erturk’s report is horrifyingly graphic. “Women are gang raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gun point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters.”
The elected Congolese parliament outlawed sexual violence last year but little practical action has been taken to curb the incidence or punish perpetrators. Some in the army are former militiamen that committed heinous crimes under their warlord bosses that today have become politicians in Congo’s mosaic government. Senior army and police officers tend to shield their favored rank and file men from prosecution and even connive to facilitate the flight of those detained.
Although the DRC parliament outlawed sexual violence in July 2006, "little action is taken by the authorities to implement the law and perpetrators continue to enjoy immunity, especially if they wear the state's uniform," Erturk said.
After her 11-day fact finding mission to Congo, the UN envoy was alarmed at the epidemic nature of the sexual violence against women and its application to settle scores. “There seems to be a pattern of using rape as a planned reprisal to punish communities suspected of supporting opposition groups.” She said to BBC, warning that sexual violence against women was creeping into the larger Congolese society
Yarkin Erturk’s report is the umpteenth in a series that have been published on this subject over the last decade by NGOs, journalists and the UN.
The civil war has claimed more than four million lives and has destroyed the future of millions more. Of these, the Congolese women have paid a disproportionate price.
Also read the 2006 article: Lest We Forget Congo’s Rape Victims at this link
Njei Moses Timah