BUNIA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — A dust-diffused brightness illuminated female speakers dressed in patterns of orange and green, yellow and blue as they addressed a group of journalists and activists about the many challenges facing women in their country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These challenges include low literacy, a lack of representation in politics, and disenfranchisement from access to other sources of power, including money. Then, almost as an aside, a woman named Jacqueline Borve from a group called Programme Amkeni Wamama made a remark that stood out among the litany: The most prevalent form of violence against young women she sees in her home town of Walikale, in Congo’s North Kivu province, is sexual harassment and assault in schools. More
KIGALI, Rwanda — A woman sat in the strong sun outside Rwanda’s genocide memorial at the end of February and told me what happened to her when she was eight years old. “Three men came to my house and killed my father and two brothers and shot my mother,” she said. “My mother survived, bleeding alone in the house for days.” More
Consolee Nishimwe has an easy giggle and repeatedly uses certain phrases when we talk: “pain,” “painful,” “it wasn’t easy at all,” “I was only 14 years old.” Bearing in mind what she endured in 1994 during Rwanda’s genocide, some of these are possibly understatements. Now 34 and living in New York City, Nishimwe said she can describe the events that brought her here, but not without difficulty.
The village of Bogoro, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a place swathed in green, dusted with orange earth, and studded with gold deposits. In the early morning of Feb. 24, 2003, at least 200 people in Bogoro were massacred by the Patriotic Resistance Forces of Ituri, or FRPI, a rebel group headed by a man known as Simba (“lion” in Swahili). When they weren’t shot, victims were allegedly sliced with machetes — a mode of killing, also used in the Rwandan genocide, which saves precious bullets. In the course of the Bogoro massacre, as in so many mass atrocities in Congo’s never-ending conflict, women were also raped; some were even taken as sexual slaves.
BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo — Leonie Kyakimwa Wangivirwa is a petite, tired-looking woman whose life has been punctuated by violence. She bears a sizable keloid scar on her upper arm where her flesh was once badly torn during an arrest for her work educating women about their rights. This activism was inspired, in part, by her survival of multiple acts of rape: She is one of thousands and thousands of women who have been targets of sexualized violence perpetrated by men over nearly two decades in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We’re off talk of “intervention” in Syria, and on to trying to get everyone to the negotiating table. It’s not going very well.
The head of the Syrian opposition has made it clear that they will not attend talks in Geneva unless President Bashar Al-Assad is removed from office. Scheduled for 23 November, the peace conference may not even occur unless all parties get to the room. In the meantime, atrocities are continuing daily in a kind of vacuum – it’s as if there is no war unless we are talking about chemical weapons.
The thing is, this war is so horrifying, so brutal, that it is hard to hold the constantly occurring atrocities at the forefront of our minds. But they exist, they are happening every minute, and we have to face them squarely if we are ever going to stop them.
Here, then, are just a few of the stories I’ve come across in my reporting. They are painful, but I think you should know about them.