A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has sentenced a Lieutenant Colonel to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity. Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware is the first commanding officer to be found guilty of rape in the Eastern DRC after more than fifty women came forward to testify against him.
On New Year’s Day, he sent his troops into the town of Fizi in the Kivu province. At his command they raped, looted and beat the inhabitants. More than 60 women were raped.
Although Government agencies frequently cite Government troops as the most widespread perpetrators of sexual violence in the DRC, many victims are too afraid, and too ashamed, to speak out, so the rapists are not brought to book. Rape is systematically used as a weapon of war, and the violence is not simply restricted to women. Men are violated too, as are children, some as young as six months. In 2010, the UN recorded 11,000 rapes in the country, but many estimate the true figure could be much higher.
The consequences of rape are legion. As well as the increased risk of HIV/AIDS and other devastating infections, victims are left with broken bodies and deep emotional scars. Babies are born to mothers who are no more than children themselves, restricting the future chances of those parents and condemning another generation to a life of poverty.
The shame felt, both by victims and their families, who may see themselves as failures for not having protected their loved ones, can drive families apart as can attitudes in this deeply moralistic society, where a rape victim may be seen as soiled and ruined. At a time when they need support and understanding, many are isolated and abandoned.
World In Need works in the DRC, helping to rebuild lives and provide hopeful futures for those torn apart by these dreadful crimes. We sponsor children and enable them to come back to school, often with their babies beside them. We provide access to medical and psychological care and we have made it possible for those who speak out against their attackers to start new lives away from the threat of reprisals. By empowering the victims, we aid the healing for the whole nation.
To learn more about our work in the DRC, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01892 669834.