Kitagi miyazi, rafiki yangu. So, I am headed back to the Congo. After three months of documenting and reporting on the work of several civil society organizations, I left Uvira in August 2009 with a bad case of dysentery. However, the violence and oppression in Eastern Congo has never been far from my mind. I have tried to keep track of the human rights situation in the region, and now I am presented with the opportunity to work with SOS Femmes en Danger, a courageous local NGO based in South Kivu province that assists survivors of sexual violence. Over the summer of 2009 Ned Meerdink and I produced a mini-documentary that showed the importance of SOS FED’s work. Now, The Advocacy Project, SOS FED, and Zivik are embarking on an ambitious risk-reduction campaign, helping women decrease the probability of attack and enslavement. Ned Meerdink has been laying down the groundwork for this project for months, and now I will be switching spots with him for about 12 months or so.
Here are some news articles and reports that give some background on the current situation in the Congo:
BBC News article on Atul Khare’s report to the UN Security Council on shortcomings of UN peacekeepers in preventing sexual violence committed by the FDLR, highlighted by the August 2010 mass rape in Luvungi.
BBC News report on the gruesome reality facing women in the Congo. The brutality visited upon women, as well as the mentality of those committing these atrocities, is particularly disheartening.
2009 report by Human Rights Watch on attacks by armed groups (FDLR, FARDC) on civilians. Note that the Congolese armed forces have largely failed at their responsibility to protect the Congolese general population.
-Soldiers Who Rape, Commanders Who Condone: Sexual Violence and Military Reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo
2009 report by Human Rights Watch on sexual violence perpetuated by Congolese armed forces, as well as the lack of response by authorities to halt such atrocities.
PBS News Hour interview (video + transcript) with Margot Wallström (UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Conflict) and Zainab Salbi (Women For Women International). Since the failure of UN peacekeepers to stop the August 2010 mass rape in Luvungi, Special Representative Wallström has called for more pressure from the international community to punish the leaders of armed factions that commit rape, as well as improving peacekeeping efforts to better protect Congolese civilians.
Washington Post editorial by actor/director Ben Affleck (Gigli, Mallrats, Bounce, Pearl Harbor). Mr. Affleck is the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative.
This is a lot of information for one blog entry, but hopefully it will provide a lot of useful information on the situations facing the women of the Congo. Check out the AP press release on what the partnership between SOS FED, The Advocacy Project, and Zivik hopes to achieve. I will have more news soon, so stay tuned.
Posted By WALTER JAMES
Posted Dec 5th, 2010