Mairead Maguire and Ann Paterson from the Peace People attended the official launch of the campaign in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (8th May – 14th May, 2012)
“WE PEOPLE OF THE DRC MUST STOP RAPE OURSELVES”
(Julienne Lusange, Sofepadi, at launch of Stop Rape in conflict Campaign, Kinshasa,DRC. 11th May, 2012).
On 8th May, 2012, Ann Patterson and I travelled to the Kinshasa, in DRC, to join Yee Htun, Co-ordinator of the Nobel Womens Initiative International Campaign to Stop Rape in Conflict, and help launch the International campaign, to ‘Stop rape in Conflict’. This was being launched simultaneously in four Countries: Colombia, Kenya, Burma and the DRC in May, 2012.
We had been invited to DRC by Julienne Lusenge of SOFEPADI, an NGO Organization working to support survivors of Rape in conflict, to be present at the International Launch of DRC Campaign in Kinshasa on 11th May, 2012. (Julienne is also a member of the Advisory Board of the International Campaign and we had the pleasure of meeting her several times in Europe).
During the week we met in the Parliament, with the President of the DRC Parliament. Also the Ministry of Justice officials, the Minister of Gender, and Several other Government officials. We also had meetings with the Canadian Ambassador, and in MONUSCO (UN) headquarters met with the Heads of the UN’s campaign to Stop Rape and gender violence. We were accompanied to these meetings by several Congolese women, who were themselves survivors of Rape in conflict and also by Julienne Lusenge of SOFEPADI and Josee Ngalula of Fods Pour Les Femmes Congolaises (FFC) who facilitated the meetings. The meeting with the President of the DRC Parliament was very moving. The President listened closely whilst the two survivors of rape (Mawa and Leoni) told their stories. He was visibly moved when the women said they were raped by armed Government soldiers, and one of the womens daughters (14) was also raped. They asked for compensation and protection from the armed soldiers. The President promised to appoint a lawyer to follow up their cases. The President said war has is roots in conflict in East Congo in mining and minerals, where armed gangs, rebels, foreign groups, are all in conflict, so the problem is deeply complex. However, he said, the Government is looking at ways of how to stop all kinds of violence and bring peace to DRC.
The Campaign ‘Stop Rape in Conflict’ was officially launched at the Carter Centre, in Kinshasa, on 11th May, 2012. Several women from the survivors group, who travelled a very long distance to be present attended, together with many local grass roots activists (at least 50% of attendees were men); foreign diplomats, the Secretary
General of the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, and the head of MONUSCO, etc.,
The launch was televised and received excellent press coverage from every news
Outlet in the DRC. Julienne Lusenge spoke passionately about the need to end
Rape and sexual violence, an end to impunity, and appealed to men in get involved in this important campaign as men are raped too. Julienne said ‘we people of the DRC must stop rape ourselves’. I made an appeal for an end to War, Rape, and all violence, more support for the survivors of Rape, and also more support for the grass roots organizations whose nonviolent work is so necessary. The stories of the two women survivors, who had been raped, moved many of the People in the room to tears. However, it was their dignity and courage which gave hope to us all that
this horrific crime of rape can be stopped when enough people speak out and act to put an end to it and Government legislate again this and act on their responsibility to
Protect their women (and men) against such horrific and criminal abuse by their own Government Soldiers, and others. (One of the problems is that when women get pregnant after rape by DRC soldiers, they have no redress. They could be helped if the DRC Gov. and MONUSCO (UN) made their military, security, etc., accountable for their crime of rape, and this could be done if they held a DNA base for all security personnel. We were advised that MONUSCO have a DNA base but currently it is not compulsory for their soldiers to comply with this. We believe this should be made compulsory and it would be one important step to protecting the women of DRC and other countries such as Haiti, where reports of rape by UN soldiers in refugee camps have taken place.)
Also change can come when people have the courage to break the taboo and silence around this crime of rape. Telling their story helps survivors survive, but also helps others become aware that this is happening and act to stop it.