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Moral Snake Oil Soothes as Sexual Abuse of Women Continues in DRC

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Today’s human rights report from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was a non sequitur. How can a report detailing the fact that a FARDC (Regular Congolese Army) soldier allegedly raped and then chopped a Hutu woman to death along with her three-month-old baby be termed a chronicle of “human rights?” The language we use to describe what is happening in equatorial Africa today is snake oil, a phony salve, used to try to soothe our collective denial while our hearts are incapable of feeling what morality will not or cannot dictate. The slaughtered Hutu woman and her infant were BLACK and so were the 4500 other women and children subjected to heinous brutality over the course of 2007. They were nameless, faceless Africans, but let us right now, right here, put a face on this Hutu woman.

What was it like for her to experience labor and delivery of this child? Did she have other children? She was beautiful with eyes that laughed and a good heart that sang. Was her husband forced to watch the devil’s handiwork of the rape before the inevitable and final butchery? Who was this nameless, beautiful child? A child of GOD, if one can retain a belief in a god in this sorry world. What was she wearing before the butchers stripped her naked? Did she sew the colorful, clean beautiful fabric that would become her death shroud? Did she have a best friend? Did they sit together in the evenings in the dust with a tiny oil lantern as they whispered and laughed together as only friends do? Did her friend see the evil? Who will tend her tiny patch of maize and guard her goats now that she is gone? What images will her children carry in their memories throughout eternity?

Yakin Erturk, the Special United Nations Rapporteur on violence against women referred to the sexual violence situation in South Kivu as the “worst she has ever seen in her four years as Special Rapporteur.” A voice crying from the hell that is Kivu, Erturk condemned the shortcomings of the criminal justice system in DRC, the total absence of the rights to life, physical integrity and liberty, and the perpetration of human rights abuses in the Kivus with “total impunity.”

Besides the unimaginable violence against women, FARDC soldiers were accused of at least ten cases of arbitrary executions--and the killer of the beautiful Hutu woman has still not been transferred to military headquarters in Goma.

If readers can stomach it, the rest of the United Nations Mission to DR Congo (MONUC) report can be read here:


Will we fight back? Is there any way to shine a light on what is happening in DRC?

One woman fought back. She is listed as Case number 18 in the report. Here is her short, but inspirational story.

“During the night of 21-22 July, a junior FARDC officer of the 2nd Battalion of Bravo Brigade allegedly attempted to rape a woman in the village of Kalengera–11 km south of Rutshuru. The victim put up a fight and managed to seize the assailant’s weapon as well as his jacket which she later handed over to the Chef de localité. The commander of the alleged perpetrator was informed of the incident but has reportedly not taken any action.”

We have been informed of the incident. Do we have the guts to take some action?

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

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