Preventing sexual violence means ending impunity

(United Nations) April 27, 2010 –Fresh from her visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which she described as the “rape capital of the world,” a senior United Nations official today urged the Security Council to make the prevention of sexual violence a top priority, and stressed the need to end impunity for the scourge.

“Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished,” Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told the 15-member body.

Ending impunity for sexual violence is a critical part of the Council’s broader mandate to shepherd situations “from might to right, from rule of war to rule of law, from bullets to ballots,” she noted.

“If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced.” Read the rest of this entry »

UN sends food aid to thousands displaced in Dem. Rep. of Congo

The United Nations is rushing food to thousands of displaced Congolese in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where tribal clashes have driven 130,000 people from their homes.

“Because of ongoing clashes in the area where these people live, it has been difficult to get food assistance to those who need it most,” UN World Food Program (WFP) Country Director Abdou Dieng said, noting that the food distributions would be widened if security conditions improved.

Convoys carrying 50 metric tons of food escorted by peacekeepers from the UN mission in DRC (MONUC) left Gemena in Equateur Province yesterday for the two distribution sites in Bozene and Boyazala, where more than 6,000 displaced people will receive month-long rations of maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt, to be distributed by AVEP, a Congolese non-governmental organization (NGO).
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Conditions worsen for Angolan refugees in Dem. Rep. of Congo

(Agenzia Fides) – More than 20,000 Angolans living in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been forced to return to Angola and have been living in tents, with very little food and medical assistance. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating due to the rains that have been falling on the villages of Mbanza Congo and Kuimba, in the Province of Zaire.

The Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants, the Justice and Peace Commission, Caritas Angola, and Jesuit Refugee Service, have published a statement, signed by Archbishop Zacarias Kamwenho, President of the Bishops’ Commission for Immigration, Justice and Peace and Archbishop Emeritus of Luanda, in which they deplore “the events that have involved the immigrants of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Violence solves nothing. Let us not be overcome by hate, revenge, discrimination, but rather by sentiments of fraternal love and solidarity, which constitute the family, society, the Church.”
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Video: Why Congo Matters by Emily Troutman

Washington, D.C. – based Emily Troutman describes herself as an “artist whose writing, photography and video work focuses on politics, identity and social documentary.” A recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo inspired this piece about what lies beyond the numbers we all see…

After spending a month in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I find myself speaking most often about the numbers: 5.4 million dead, 2,000 rapes per month, 17,000 UN soldiers, a war that started 15 years ago (or more?)….

And suddenly, the conflict seems impossibly huge, unsolvable, tragic, and remote. It is easy to forget that numbers are symbols, representing real people who take up an actual, physical space; who walk the down the dirt roads at sunset and carry water from the river, just as they did when I was there.

Numbers are a simple way to measure what has been lost. But we also lose something in the counting. We begin to think we know the exact dimensions of a problem, and then, we file it away to be solved later, somewhere between running out of milk and global warming.

For a number to be useful, it should have a beating heart and a face. It should collect names and remind us of something in ourselves. A number should challenge us to unravel it, to give it a smell (the earthy jungle undergrowth), a color (the black volcanic dust), a taste (papaya), and a sound (the ‘snap’ of a green bean).

Each death, each rape in Congo, happens in a moment when the sun is either up or down, when the rain has started or stopped, when a small phrase was uttered, or a glance exchanged. The numbers can tell us something about how often it has happened, but almost nothing about how. Or who.

With a story this big, and so little public awareness of it, I started to ask myself, Does Congo matter? I don’t know. I guess that’s hard to measure. It matters to the people who live there. It matters to me.

Emily Troutman

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UNICEF chief visits traumatized children in DR Congo

The people of the far northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in constant fear of attacks from a notorious rebel group from neighboring Uganda, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today after visiting the region.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman traveled to Dungu, a remote Congolese village near the border with Sudan and Uganda where over 300,000 people have been uprooted by clashes in a region terrorized by the rebels known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

“The LRA is notorious for kidnapping children, forcing them to kill and maim innocent victims and enslaving young girls as their concubines,” she said after talking with children who had been abducted by the rebels.
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Video: UN faces huge task in Democratic Republic of the Congo

A report from Jason Maloney of The Bureau for International Reporting about the state of U.N. peackeeping operations in Congo.

Clinton targets sexual violence during visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo

The New York Times reports

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a $17 million plan on Tuesday to fight the widespread sexual violence in eastern Congo, a problem she said was “evil in its basest form.”

“We are very concerned about civilian casualties: deaths and rapes and other injuries from military action,” she said at an press conference in Goma.

“The Congolese Government, of course, came out of many years of war, and that is very destabilizing to societies and very often human rights are considered a luxury during a wartime. But there are no excuses any longer, and there has to be more expected from the government here. The United States and other countries, as well as the United Nations, stand ready to assist the government in taking actions to both promote human rights, including women’s rights, and to punish violators of human rights and women’s rights,” she said.

“There has to be an end of the paying of the militias by mineral interests and other interests that buys impunity and gives these militias the free rein to terrorize people. And sexual and gender-based violence must be condemned. It must be condemned by everyone in every part of society. People need to be not only ashamed if they commit rape and other sexual violence, but they need to be arrested and prosecuted and punished so that it serves as a strong message that this will not be tolerated,” Clinton said.