Colonialism, Racism, Sexism and Capitalism Conspire against Rape Victims in Congo

23 Oct 2009

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According to United Nations Resolution 1820, rape is a war crime that must be responded to.

However, the women of Congo are being abandoned by the world as the number raped recently reached 500,000.

Rape is the weapon of choice in the war in Congo where competing militia fight over the country's valuable natural resources, particularly coltan, which is an essential mineral, used in cell phones and laptops. Worse still, neighbouring countries are fighting their wars on Congolese soil where the civilian population has become the victim in this struggle for minerals and resources.

Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day (an organisation that amongst other things, advocates for the protection of Congolese women and an end to the war in the country) has just completed the first year of a of a five-year campaign to highlight the plight of Congolese rape victims and says that no matter how many governments she talks to nor how many trips to the UN she makes, the situation in Congo remains unchanged.

And with respect to this situation, Ensler says, "Colonialism, racism, sexism and capitalism have merged into a fiery cauldron."

An important part of the inaction to effectively resolve the conflict, she argues, is the involvement of the governments of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda who are "really running the show" in Congo.

Behind them are the United States and other countries as well as multinational corporations who are not transparent, she says.

According to Ensler, the Rwandan war was allowed to move into Congo through Operation Turquoise, supported by the French -- and the United States gave permission for that war to be fought in Congo.

Ensler, who has traveled extensively throughout the world documenting rape, says nothing comes close to Congo in terms of the extreme nature of the violence against the women, including torture.

Women's wombs are cut open and they are forced to eat their children. Fathers are forced to rape their daughters at gunpoint.

The age of victims is a non-issue for rape perpetrators. Six month old babies, eight year old girls and women as old as 80 are being raped by gangs of soldiers.

Rose Mapendo, a rape victim and refugee from Congo contends that the government is responsible for the violence against women.

US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, visited Congo some months back and made undertakings aimed at resolving the conflict. But nothing has changed since her visit, says Ensler.

Ensler, a citizen of the US, believes her government should be playing a stronger diplomatic role to end the war in Congo decisively. Her organisation is against the use of military solutions in Congo.

Editor’s Note: The above report has been compiled from the full interview with Eve Ensler and Rose Mapendo, which can be found on the GRITtv website.

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