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Experts Discuss Source of Congo Rape

By Matthew Tamul Posted: 03/30/2009
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Experts attributed the rampant, systematic rape and gender-based violence in the Congo, which is carried out by remnants of the country’s own militia, to the nation’s political instability during the African Student Association’s panel event Monday evening.

“If the conflict doesn’t end, the rape will not end,” panelist and member of Friends of Congo Kambale Musavuli said.

Between the war, looting and rape in east Congo and police oppression in the west, Modeste Malu, academic secretary at the Faculty of Theology at Facultés Catholiques de Kinshasa, said that he sees no way to break the continuance of rape in the east of Congo.

The systematic rape often occurs in public adding to its debilitating effect on the country’s women and posterity by traumatizing not only the victims but their children who witnessed the rape, African History Graduate Student Jill Rosenthal said.

She added that due to the extreme brutality of the ex-militias, raped women often develop fistulas, a painful rupture in the wall between the vagina and the bladder or rectum, preventing them from bearing children and leaving the victim incontinent.

Traditionally, the rapist was banned from their community because “he is a danger to the life of society, but in modern times the rapist is the state,” Institute of Critical International Studies Doctoral Fellow Patience Kabamba said.

A responsible yet strong government is needed to end the pervasive feeling of impunity that the rapists enjoy, Musavuli said.

“Outside interests put someone in power who can protect their interest in power,” he said. “This system needs to change.”

The construction of strong institutions and infrastructure in Congo is “critical in breaking from the foreign and national corporations that are oppressing the people,” Musavuli said.

The spread of conflict in Congo can be tracked by following the paper trail of multinational corporations operating in Congo, Rosenthal said.

Areas of Congo with the highest incidents of rapes are also areas rich in natural resources such as gold and diamonds that do not require large sums of capital to mine and transport resulting in the displacement of more than 1.2 million people in eastern Congo, Musavuli said.

“The rape of the women and the rape of the land [are] inextricably linked,” Musavuli said. “The central question has always been who is going to control Congo’s resources.”

The panel discussion, which was preceded by a film screening of “Congo: Understanding the Crisis,” was a part of the African Student Association’s African Awareness Week, as well as the kickoff event for student group Human Rights Action’s Human Rights Week.

— Contact Matthew Tamul.

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