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The conflict in the DRC is nothing new to the region. I would argue that the conflict began well before the assassination of the democratically elected leader, Lumumba, in 1961 and has only grown from there. After Lumumba was assassinated Mobutu Sese Seko gained power and ruled terribly for the next 32 years. He was overthrown by rebellion in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who leader of the prominent rebel group. Unable to bring peace, Kabila faced his own rebel opposition until he was assassinated in 2001. Intense turmoil resumed in the DRC following Kabila's assassination, sparking a six country war including Rwanda and Uganda.

In 2002 a peace deal was signed to officially end the DRC conflict, 17,000 UN troops were deployed and yet the conflict continues. In 2006 Laurent's son Joseph Kabila was elected in a tense, yet democratic and free election. Joseph Kabila faces opposition from his father's rule (as well as support from his father's popularity), calls that he is not Congolese - that his mother was Rwandan and he is not from the DRC, along with calls of corruption in his administration. When Joseph was born in Eastern Congo he was sent to live in hiding pretending to be part of a Tanzanian ethnic group. Later he recieved military training in China, which helps in the exploitation of the DRC's vast resources. J. Kabila has been able to broker a written peace, but how well can he create peace in reality?

It is reported that 370,000 people have been displaced in a conflict that has more facets than a cut stone. Roughly 6000 Rwandan Hutu militiamen are hiding in the DRC hoping one day to invade Rwanda and retake control after the genocide they spurred. In an attempt to drive out the Hutu militias General Nkundu's troops have torn through the region displacing thousands. He is estimated to control 8000 militiamen. Some claim that he is fighting a proxy war for the Rwandan government to keep the Hutu militias away from the Rwandan border. For this reason many local militias have formed to fight General Nkundu's troops and stop them from wreaking havoc in the region.

The Eastern Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not seen peace in a long time and now there is an increase in violence against women. In September of this year, in an interview with the BBC, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women said that in the South Kivu province, sexual violence was the worst she has seen and warned that it was becoming something normal. Violence becoming normal? Sexual assault becoming normal? Rape becoming normal? In September the UN reported that there had already been 4000 incidents of sexual violence against women just in the Southern Kivu province.

It is interesting that Kabila is not doing more for the women of his home region and the region where he had the most political support. Why does he let the women of Eastern DRC be sexually abused? Rape has become so prevalent as a tool of war that women have stopped going to the fields. Girls as young as three, men, and boys have been raped too. Sadly even if the perpetrators are caught the court system refuses to hear cases on rape, witnesses are frightened away, and military leaders refuse to help. This year V-Day and UNICEF have partnered to raise awareness and bring aid to women affected by the weapon of mass destruction that is rape.

Since 1996, sexual violence against women and children in the eastern part of the DRC has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped since the conflict began in DRC. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae and other physical wounds, as well as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

All of the military forces have used rape as a weapon of war, even UN personnel have been implicated in cases of rape in the DRC. The victims of rape experience more than just the physical impacts of the act - from ostracism to physcological effects to a lack of justice through the local and formal courts. I cannot even begin to write everything of importance here and would highly recommend the V-Day site to read the full story and access a great set of resources to learn more.

From the When not in Africa. . . blog.

Previously posted on the Young People For Blog.

Originally posted to scoutbanana on Thu Oct 25, 2007 at 05:27 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The DRC (5+ / 0-)

    I have written quite a few entries on the conflicts of the DRC. However, when you have a country almost twice the size of Europe with extensive turmoil prefaced by a terrible history of colonialism and corruption - there is a lot ot learn.

    Challenge yourself everyday, if you don't then it is a wasted day.

    by scoutbanana on Thu Oct 25, 2007 at 05:29:23 PM PDT

    •  Teach hard! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And thanks for this diary.  I dont keep up with African politics and current events as I used to.  I was in the hub as a college student in the 60's as a Crossroader in Ghana.  What a different and hopeful world it was then for Africa.  I got to shake hands with Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, met refugees who were coming into Ghana from Congo (it was rumored that Nkrumah was training Lumumba's revolutionaries), met with Nkrumah's opposition (Dr Danquah) in a clandestine meeting at the university of Legon.  Blah, blah, blah.  Wow what memories you've stirred up.  Thanks again.

      •  amazing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico, jlms qkw

        Thanks for sharing your story. I just traveled to Ghana this summer to study at the University of Legon and experience Ghana. How amazing to shake Nkrumah's hand, see the development of the DRC, and I am sure much more. I would not go so far to say that the times now are not so hopeful for Ghana other African countries. There is always hope, and a great deal of it in Africa. On my blog I like to write about the issues that are often under-represented and unknown as well as telling the stories of hope on the continent. I'll be sure to highlight some hope in my next post. I'd love to hear more stories too.

        Challenge yourself everyday, if you don't then it is a wasted day.

        by scoutbanana on Thu Oct 25, 2007 at 11:39:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Checked out your links. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Very good. bookmarked them. Should allow me to stay a little more informed.

    •  A country twice the size of Europe? (0+ / 0-)

      Not sure what you mean by that.  Europe's five times the size of the DRC by geography, and ten times the size of the DRC by population.

      Sorry, just can't figure out what you mean.

      Otherwise, excellent diary - thank you.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Fri Oct 26, 2007 at 01:21:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  a little overzealous (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Not so much twice the size of Europe, but the DRC is roughly the size of Western Europe, which is a large land mass for one country as opposed to many in the same land area.

        Challenge yourself everyday, if you don't then it is a wasted day.

        by scoutbanana on Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 10:32:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for your diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw

    I'm an amateur primatologist and the DRC is home to Virunga National Park, so it continues to sadden me to see the devastation in that nation continue almost unabated year after year.

    I think what we see in nations like Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC [among others] is too little land or sustenance for too many humans. Again and again these conditions lead to a breakdown of the moral order. It is no different than the reports coming out of the Nazi concentration camps of opportunists and saints, murderers and poets.  Humans in extremis are capable of the very worst.

    But, thank you for bringing your knowledge about the DRC to dKos.

  •  a difficult topic (0+ / 0-)

    thank you for writing about this.
    congrats on your rescue.
    and please keep this on the dkos radar screen.

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