Violence and the birth of the modern Congo

In this course of the armed conflict in eastern DRC, tens of thousands of women and girls have been victims of systematic rape and sexual assault committed by combatant and militia forces according to Amnesty International in the report “time for remedies” ENGAFR620182004 26/10/2004. Women and girls have been attacked in their homes, in the fields or as they found engaged in their daily activities. Many have been raped more than once or have suffered gang rapes. In many cases, women and young girls have been taken as sex slaves by combatants.

Rape of men and boys has also taken place. Rape has often been preceded or followed by the deliberate wounding, torture (including torture of sexual nature) or killing the victim. Rapes have been committed in public and in front of family members, including children. Some women have been raped by side of the corpses of family members. The civilian population of eastern DRC has been the victim of war crimes and grave human rights violations on a daily basis. They had been witnessing combatants nearly around 20 armed factions fighting for control of the land and its resources.

In a context of the collapse of state authority in the east, national and international laws are no longer observed and all the armed factions have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate sexual violence with impunity. Rape has been used deliberately and strategically to attack the fundamental values of the community, to terrorize and humiliate those suspected of supporting an enemy group and to demonstrate the supremacy of one group over another. In addition to the trauma of rape, survivors’ rights are further violated in the aftermath of the rape, deepening their suffering immeasurably.

Most women suffering injuries or illnesses caused by the rape – some of them are in the status of life-threatening – are denied the due medical care they need. Because of prejudice, many women are abandoned by their husbands and excluded by their communities, leaving them and their children to extreme poverty. Because of an incapacitated judicial system, availability of justice is in jeopardy or there exists no severe punishment for the crimes committed on women by the rebel armed forces. Continuing insecurity haunts women who live in fear of further attacks or reprisals if they speak out against the perpetrators.

At the start of the 21st century, with some of the most horrific known examples of sexual violence during armed conflict taking place before our very own eyes, we have to ask why wartime rape recurs with such alarming rate. Why are women so consistently targeted for this specific type of assault? Ultimately, can wartime sexual violence be prevented? It has become extremely difficult to eradicate completely the sexual violence in a conflict due to various critical factors. First, women’s secondary and unequal status in normal situations renders them predictably at risk for sexual violence in times of war.

Second, increasing international exposure and public outrage about rape in conflict have failed to translate into vigorous investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, a necessary element in any serious effort to deter such violence. Finally, inadequate humanitarian assistance for survivors of wartime sexual assault reflects official disregard for the poor women and girls who suffered in the course of conflict and hints a lack of commitment to help rape survivors’ to reintegrate into society.

Mass rape in the DRC has resulted in the spread of HIV, which is expected to have a catastrophic future effect on the health of future generations of the country. The reason for recent violence in DRC dates back to the days of settlement by European mercantilism where Congo-Kinshasa (old name of DRC) was politically disorganized into several major kingdoms viz. the Kingdom of Kongo, the Luba Empire, the Lunda Empire, and the Lele according to Britannica Student Encyclopaedia 2006.

The period of colonial conquest began during the latter half of the 19th century when King Leopold II of Belgium acquired the Congo Basin under the Treaty of Berlin in 1885 . He was recognized by the European powers as the sovereign of the Independent State of the Congo. By the mid-1890s Leopold established control in most areas and aggressively pursued development plans for the exploitation of natural resources. This was named as the Belgian Congo then. The colonial administration was very cautious to see that no significant roles in the government are assigned to Africans.

They engaged the local the labour force for the European-owned and managed plantations and mining operations. They established Christian mission schools throughout the country which contributed to an increase in the literacy rate, but not until the 1950s, when two universities were opened, which encouraged the Congolese to get proper education past the primary level and women of course was neglected and social restrictions were thrived for their higher education. This decentralization and regionalization of the Belgian colonial structure created ethnically divided [111] and politically stifled African elite.

Unlike many Africans under British and French colonial rule, the Congolese lacked a national ideology. The ethnic association of the Kongo people, however, was the basis for the formation of one of the first African political parties in the Congo, the “Alliance des Ba-Kongo” (ABAKO) , under the leadership of Joseph Kasavubu . It was not until 1958 that the “Mouvement Nationale Congolais” (MNC) formed and began to work toward independence. Fast-growing political unrest led to independence on June 30, 1960, with Kasavubu as president and Patrice Lumumba as prime minister.

However, less than four months after gaining independence, the Congo began to slip into a state of anarchy. In the battle for the power, chief of staff Colonel Joseph Mobutu , seized control in September 1960 with the firm backing of the army. Mobutu ousted Kasavubu and Lumumba and ordered the expulsion of all Soviets from the Congo. In doing so, Mobutu won the favour of many Western governments. More praise followed in December 1961, when Mobutu, having re-established order in the government, returned Kasavubu to power. In January 1961, the exiled Patrice Lumumba was assassinated.

Supporters of Lumumba fled to the south-eastern part of the country and initiated an insurgency against the Congolese government. Pierre Mulele was a Congolese revolutionary who was minister of education in Patrice Lumumba’s cabinet for a brief. In 1964, during the Simba rebellions, Mulele, led a Maoist faction in the province of Kwilu. After the rebellion’s defeat, he fled into exile in Congo-Brazzaville [101]. In 1968, then-President Joseph-Desire Mobutu lured Mulele out of exile by promising him amnesty. Mulele returned to Congo-Kinshasa, believing he would be granted amnesty.

Instead, he was publicly tortured and execute. His eyes were pulled from their sockets, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one, all while he was alive. What was left was dumped in the river. (Source: Michela Wrong, “In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo, P. 90”. Joseph Mobutu staged a bloodless military coup, deposing Kasavubu. In his bid for political power, Mobutu received the firm support of the United States government, and more significantly, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) .


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