September 14, 2007
A "holocaust of horror" is being inflicted upon women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the UN and Western nations are largely ignoring the crisis, according to Stephen Lewis, the former UN special envoy on AIDS in Africa.
Unlike the humanitarian disaster in Sudan's Darfur province, which has attracted the attention of the UN and various celebrities, little attention is being paid to Congo, where militia are carrying out rape, torture, and murder on a broad scale.
"The entire world is preoccupied with Darfur, understandably. But it must be said that between ten and twenty times the number of people have died in the eastern Congo as have died in Darfur. There are more displaced persons in the eastern Congo than in Darfur. Darfur has been going on for four years; the eastern Congo has been ravaged for ten," said Lewis, who heads his own foundation aimed at fighting AIDS in Africa and who recently returned from the region. John Holmes, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, voiced similar concerns after returning from Congo.
The world's leaders, most of them men, have displayed a "spectacular lack of energy" in response to the plight of females in Congo, Lewis said. He called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to press the International Criminal Court to declare rape a crime against humanity and to indict suspected rapists on war crimes charges. Fighting between government forces and militias has driven tens of thousands of people from eastern Congo, leading some analysts to fear the country is on the eve of a new civil war.