April 27, 2011
A very sad article in the The Washington Times:
Eleven-year-old Donata tugged at her dark leopard-print shirt, squirming after she described how she had been raped the week before.
Her 9-year-old half sister, Vestina, had been raped at the same time, but she was more forthcoming. A local cowherd had caught her and her two sisters on their way home from the market. The third sister also was hospitalized, but she ran away because she was too hungry to stay for treatment.
“She left the hospital because there is no food,” Donata said. “We only get food in the evenings.”
The girls said their attacker had gone to prison. But activists say that is unlikely.
Rape in Congo is widespread and often systematic. Despite a few high-profile prosecutions this year, activists say, impunity for rape is common and soldiers and civilians continue to rape without fear of retribution.
The United Nations Children’s Fund says it treated 16,000 rape victims in Congo last year. About half were children.
Activists say rape in Congo rips apart lives and communities, drives the people further into poverty and continues to be a weapon in the war that has claimed more than 5 million lives since it began in 1996.
Dr. Endanda Zawadi cares for Donata and Vestina in a hospital in war-torn eastern Congo, where almost all of her patients are rape victims. She said about 80 percent of her patients report that soldiers from one of the region’s many competing militias attacked them.
Sometimes the attacks are random acts of violence, Dr. Zawadi said. But often, soldiers rape dozens or even hundreds of girls and women at a time as a deliberate act of war.
“They want to humiliate local people,” the doctor said. “It’s a way to show that they are powerful and they can control the whole region.”…
Read on here.