Mirungi Ekyiamba is 35 years old and is married to Bitangingwa, a very petite, pretty 24-year-old woman. Mirungi is the mwami of the village of Mukwesi, several kilometers north of Mboko. He has been mwami since 2008, when he succeeded his grandfather. I interviewed Mirungi and Bitangingwa in a tiny hut, the walls blackened by smoke from years of cooking fires. Beside Bitangingwa was a squat charcoal stove with a pot of sombe bubbling away.
Mirungi first came into contact with SOS FED in 2010, when SOS FED field officer Amisi Mas came to see him. With SOS FED, Mirungi has helped reintegrate 5 women back into his community. In addition, Mirungi has been cooperating with SOS FED to send survivors of sexual violence to the SOS FED center in Mboko to receive assistance. In total, Mirungi has helped 9 women seek assistance at SOS FED.
In order to convince families to re-accept survivors of sexual violence, Mirungi will go and give them “advice”, although he said that sometimes families come to him seeking his advice on matters relating to sexual violence. Mirungi said that he likes to have “one-on-one” conversations with husbands who have rejected their wives. He tells husbands that the rape was not the fault of their wife, and therefore they should not blame her for her violation. Mirungi often uses himself as an example, as he has stayed with his wife despite the fact she was raped by Mai Mai rebels a few years ago.
Mirungi also gives the same counsel to families who have not experienced sexual violence. He said that rape could happen to anyone, and therefore families need to be informed on the correct treatment of survivors of sexual violence even if such an incident has not happened to them.
Mirungi accompanies SOS FED reintegration officer Wilondja Lubunga on all pre-reintegration visits to families, but he says that he very often goes on his own to speak to families and exhort them to change their attitudes on survivors of sexual violence. After women are reintegrated, Mirungi and Wilondja will often visit them to make sure they are well adjusted back into the community.
Mirungi said that the experience of his family makes him a powerful witness to his constituency. When Mirungi’s wife was raped, he says members of his own family and some of his neighbors spoke to him and convinced him to stay with his wife, and to help her seek badly needed medical attention. Bitangingwa, had been pregnant when she was raped, and suffered a miscarriage soon after the incident. Bitangingwa was sent to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where she was operated on to repair extensive physical damage attributed to her rape. Bitangingwa is in good health today, but is now unable to bear children, leaving the couple childless.
Posted By WALTER JAMES
Posted Oct 7th, 2011