Rape and genocide in the DR Congo
by B K Kumbi, Congolese historian and activist.
I would like first to thank Sarah Cheverton for this article that really tries to make sense of the horrific war in the Congo.
The problem of the general discourse on rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is that it often leaves aside the question of the war that is a fundamental aspect here.
While we must question this act in terms of gender because this issue has its importance in what is happening in this country, we cannot only address this issue from this perspective. It is a wrong road and it only strengthens our own categories of analysis.
Why do I say that?
Speaking with Congolese activists who are on site in the Kivu and who are working in the area of sexual violence, they say that on the ground we are seeing more and more rapes against men.
What is particularly shocking in this category of rape is that the perpetrators are not only men but also women. This is of course not the bulk of the phenomenon, but it forces us to reassess our analytical framework in relation to this problem.
I know that the temptation to define the issue in terms of the opposition between women and men is very appealing but war is not a simple phenomenon. The Congolese people deserve our compassion but above all our intellectual honesty when we analyze the tragedy we are going through.
We must be particularly attentive to the context in which these rapes are committed.
Rape in the DRC is war and it is a war that is as much done against women, children and men. Rape in this case is an aggravating factor of the crime of genocide.
What is sought through this act is not only to displace the Congolese population in order to replace it mainly by the Rwandan speaking Tutsi population but it aims at trying to stop the reproductive capacity of the Congolese women.
It is basically a form of extremely brutal and barbaric sterilization.
These acts are not random acts.
They are underpinned by the desire of neighboring countries – supported by Western multinationals and governments – to grab the Congolese Kivu lands that are rich in raw materials, such as coltan used to manufacture cell phones or missiles.
Those who will benefit from this are neighboring Rwanda and by proxy Uganda, if they succeed in making the Kivu a buffer state under the aegis of the UN.
This is the backdrop in which the violence occurs and that we must denounce absolutely.
If we only highlight the rape of women, it becomes very easy just to call for an end of rape leaving the call to stop the war aside.
As a Congolese woman, I strongly feel that no room is left for the victims. Their word is relayed by Westerners (feminists, politicians, or actors) when they know better who rapes them, who rapes their children, or their husbands.
No one really wants to listen to victims because it contradicts the narrative that is set up here in the West, which completely ignores the question of the genocide of the Congolese people.
The silence that surrounds the issues at stake in the Congo is reflected in the Human Rights Watch report in 2005, which was totally ignored, or perhaps, more correctly, silenced.
This report, which was the basis of the prosecution launched by the International Criminal Court against Uganda, showed that Uganda had committed war crimes, genocide and looting in Congo.
Nobody has ever faced justice for those crimes. It is easier today to prosecute an individual or an army battalion than to go after a state, particularly when those particular states have been either supported and protected by the West or have done nothing to protect their citizens (as is the case with the Congo presidency).
The problems that Congolese people face are manifold, but there is a single truth here: people should start listening to Congolese people – not those who pretend to rule the country but instead enrich themselves, but the ones who are exterminated daily.
I am speaking from personal experience. Among the 6 million or more people who have died in the Congo were some who are very dear to me.
A petition has just been launched by an alliance of Congolese and UK campaigners calling on the UN Secretary General to acknowledge the genocide against the people of the DR Congo. Please sign it.