March 27, 2009
The aid group OXFAM International is warning that conflict in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to widespread sexual violence against women. On average, more than a thousand women in the region are raped every day, it says.
More than a million people have been displaced because of the conflict. Much of the violence in recent months is attributed to various rebel groups, including the Hutu-based FDLR; the Tutsi-based CNDP; and the Lord's Resistance Army, which operates out of Uganda.
Mary Robinson, OXFAM's president, said a recent fact-finding mission sought to determine better ways of protecting women from violence and involving them more in the peace process. Robinson is the former president of Ireland and former UN high commissioner for human rights.
Robinson met with Joseph Kabila, Congo's president, to discuss the issues. "I was able to raise with him concerns about security, concerns about displacement of civilians, and in particular the violence," said Robinson. "And he said he has been especially addressing that issue with his cabinet. That he's insisting on zero violence against women. That he's been talking to his army chief. So, I think there is a change of mood in the context of what has been happening."
There are reports of armed groups raiding towns and villages, raping women in front of their families. Robinson said some of these women shared their experiences with her at the Mugunga One camp. "In some cases men had entered their home and raped them and then their husbands would no longer accept them. In some cases it was when they went for firewood. In some cases they became pregnant and they had babies that were born of rape," she recounted.