In 20 years of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reports of mass rape have become depressingly commonplace — and so has the utter lack of justice for the women being violated. Which is why a 2006 decision by a court in Congo’s northeastern Equateur province to pay reparations to at least some of the victims of a mass rape that occurred in a place called Songo Mboyo came as such welcome news to so many.
But what at first appeared to be a chance for actual healing in a country grappling with deep physical and psychological scars ultimately proved to be the worst kind of bait and switch.
On the night of Dec. 21, 2003, former rebel forces awaiting integration into the national army rose up against their commanders, who had not paid the men their full salaries. The former rebels looted houses and attacked women across Songo Mboyo and in the nearby village of Bongandanga. At least 119 women were raped, some reportedly children.
“They were heavily armed,” one survivor told a U.N. panel on remedies and reparations for victims of sexual violence in Congo that reported to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights.