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Life Arts

Witness to Rape in Congo: "What is the future when the heart of the community is broken?"

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Georgianne Nienaber       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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On August 1, the BBC reported very troubling news that Congolese government forces and rebel troops in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are rearming in spite of a January peace agreement. A source reported to the BBC that "six plane-loads of arms and ammunition" had been flown into Goma by the Joseph Kabila government in the last 10 days. Congolese Defense minister, Chikez Diemu, would neither confirm nor deny the reports. Mainstream media is not reporting this in the United States, except for ABC news, which had three lines posted on its Olympic News webpage.

MONUC (The United Nations Mission to Congo) and the Voice of America report that at least 150,000 more people have been displaced in Eastern Congo since the January agreement. Human Rights Watch supports that figure. Rape and other attacks against the civilian population have continued, unabated. This continuing horror story appears to have no end, despite eloquent appeals by Anneke von Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch and American playwright, Eve Ensler.

Perhaps the scale of the humanitarian tragedy is too much for people to comprehend, or perhaps the hidden corporate agenda of mainstream media in the United States will not allow this story to see the light of day. The rape and plunder of Congo's resources is behind the great silence which surrounds this story. The proxy armies of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda serve the international corporate agenda. The story is complicated, and will never be fully understood except within the confines of historical analysis.

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Meanwhile, six million are dead in the last ten years, 1,200 people die every day, unspeakable crimes against women's bodies go unreported, and the 1.2 million innocents in refugee camps cannot afford the time to wait for history's analysis of the reasons behind their despair and misery. More than 2,000 rape cases were recorded last month alone in the Democratic Republic of Congo's violent North Kivu province.

Foreign journalists have literally begged for western coverage of this carnage. Photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale, who has worked in Congo for eight years, told the UK Independent, "If journalists aren't writing about it, or editors won't run the stories, they are just as guilty as the warlords."

Perhaps the only way to gain attention for this story is to let the witnesses speak for themselves. It will be shocking testimony, and anyone with a queasy stomach should read no further. What you will read is horrifying, sickening and disgusting, but perhaps it is time for the average American to look at what we are allowing to happen in the Democratic Republic of Congo so that junior can have his Playstations, and so that we have the minerals necessary to operate our strategic weapons programs and download music into our cell phones and Ipods.

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The following is testimony from a witness. His story has been verified by his former associates. Heed what he has to say. The decision was made to not show photos of the victims. To do so would only compound their shame and feed voyeuristic instincts. The job of the writer is to paint the picture with words, hoping that the sword arm has the strength to do so.

The Congolese witness in this case is also the victim. The Post Traumatic Stress induced by his journey to hell and back does not allow him to sleep or live a life free from flashbacks. He struggles through the sunrise of each new day in exile in a foreign land, not knowing if the tears will flow -- or not. His life is spent straddling the maws of Hades -- redemption a false promise from a god that has abandoned all that is holy. Ironically, his real name is the Latin for the Supreme Being, "Deo." God may not be dead, but god is certainly wounded, incapable of fixing all which greed, lust, anger and hate has destroyed.

Deo mailed his story to a writer. This damaged writer, Deo's contact, is flawed, filled with anger, and also understands the stress of seeing too much and the hopelessness of despair and abandonment. But together the wounded will try to describe what must be seen and understood by anyone with a heart and soul willing to step forward and cry out that this heinousness must stop. For anyone who reads this account, anyone who can do something to raise public awareness, the victims with one voice shout, "Morituri te salutant!" in the language of their colonialist oppressors.

The Witness

Deo worked as a psychological consultant with refugees from Darfur and as a trauma counselor with World Vision in Congo. The job which eventually rewired the synapses of a compassionate man's nervous system involved evaluating a living hell. This fiery forge of hate still stalks the victims of rape and other atrocities born of armed conflict in the Eastern DRC -- specifically in Bukavu, Uvira, Kalehe, Bunyakiri, Katana, and the Mwenga conflict zones. Deo is Congolese by birth and his fluency in the Swahili, Lingala and Kinyarwandan languages and dialects of Kivu Province made him ideal for the job.

Fate found Deo telling his story to a writer who was recently in the same conflict zones. His testimony follows and has been minimally edited for flow.

"God's" Testimony

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I was working in Congo since 2004 as trauma counselor, and from my activities with women victims of rape, did my best to help women, girls, boys, and men cope with the trauma they faced due to the wars and assaults.

I found many psychological wounds in them but also I learned from them to be with hope myself. To share what I saw is a way to cope with the flashbacks that come to me as a result of what I saw and what I heard. A lot of countries around the world are at war, but what's going on in Congo is something different -- it is a war with the aim to destroy all of society by destroying women and girls.

MONUC archive

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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