Saturday, November 22, 2008

DRC Update: Journalist Shot Dead in Eastern Region; More IDPs; Rape Crisis Escalates

Journalist shot dead in DR Congo

A journalist working for a UN-backed radio station in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been shot dead.

The radio station and a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force says Didace Namujimbo was killed by a shot to the head.

There is no indication who may have shot him.

He is the second journalist from the station to be killed in the past 18 months.

Meanwhile, DR Congo President Joseph Kabila has ended talks in Angola about the rebellion in the east of his country.

The talks ended with a general statement of support for the people of Congo but there was no mention of Angolan troops being sent there.

Congo's Ambassador to the United States Faida Mitifu says even a bolstered UN force may not be enough.

"We welcome the additional 3,000 troops that the Security Council finally agreed upon," he said.

"But the most important thing will be the mandate. How strong will be the mandate of the UN troops? They have to be able to protect the civilians population."

DRC: Thousands flee Kiwanja amid fears of attack

KINSHASA, 21 November 2008 (IRIN) - Tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled transit sites in Kiwanja, northeast of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, amid fears of an imminent militia attack.

"Eighty thousand people left the camps although the attack did not take place," said Jean-Marc Mambidi, a member of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) team in the province. Kiwanja is located 63 km from Goma.

Some of the IDPs, who fled after rumours of an attack by Mai Mai militia on 19 November, were staying with other families while the rest remained without shelter, Mambidi said.

The IDPs had earlier fled fighting between renegade army General Laurent Nkunda’s Congres national pour la defense du people (CNDP) rebels and pro-government forces.

The UN World Food Programme had to suspend a food distribution exercise scheduled in the area because the expected beneficiaries were no longer there.

Relative calm continued to prevail in the area despite reports of skirmishes in some places, according to the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC).

However, MONUC troops were twice been forced to return fire after Mai Mai attacks, said spokesman Madnoje Mounoubai.

MONUC also condemned the looting of a therapeutic nutrition centre run by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in the area of Kayna, 200 km from Goma.

Meanwhile, road repairs were being carried out near Goma so that some 65,000 IDPs in one camp near the frontline can be moved to a safer site.

Report can be found online at:

DRC: Rape crisis set to worsen amid Kivu chaos

NAIROBI, 19 November 2008 (IRIN) - Soaring insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has raised fears of a new wave of sexual violence in a region termed “the worst place in the world to be a woman” by aid workers.

During the first six months of 2008, there were more than 5,000 reported rape cases in the flashpoint province of North Kivu, according to data collected by doctors at health centres. The true figure is likely to be far higher, as women are too traumatised or afraid of stigma to seek help.

One hospital specialising in sexual violence in Goma, capital of North Kivu, admits on average four women a day - making more than 18,000 since it opened in 2003.

In neighbouring South Kivu, the UN reported 27,000 sexual assaults in 2006. It is impossible to say how many cases there have been across the country but based on anecdotal evidence, doctors say numbers are rising.

With the recent surge in fighting between the government army and rebels led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, many more women - and some men - will likely have fallen victim to Congo's notorious reputation for the use of rape as a weapon of war.

“Common pattern”

"They came after it was dark when we were hiding in the house; they forced open windows and shone torches inside," one 45-year-old woman told IRIN in Rutshuru, 90km north of Goma, as she lay recovering from being raped by a man she said was a rebel soldier.

"They told us to open the door or they would break it down and kill everyone inside. What could I do?"

She was forced to the ground by two soldiers. Her husband, 52, was dragged to the floor and the muzzle of a rifle pressed to his head.

"They said they wanted money. I took one of them into the bedroom and gave them US$50, which we had borrowed from a friend so that we could run away from the fighting.

"He took that and then he raped me. He stopped halfway and went outside to tell my husband that he would be shot if he moved."

The woman, who refused to be identified for fear of reprisals, said doctors had told her she would recover. When she spoke to IRIN, two days after her attack on 30 October, she could barely move.

"This is not going to be an isolated case," said Joseph Ciza, who helps to run the HEAL Africa hospital for victims of sexual violence in Goma.

"Whenever there is fighting, there are attacks on women. Those attacks reduce when the armies are actually in battle, but once that stops and they settle into their new positions, the rapes will start. It is a common pattern."

Women have reported a surge of sexual violence in the past fortnight in Kibati, the village 12km north of Goma that lies just south of the frontline but which has been swamped by displaced people fleeing fighting.

"There are two women living in the shelter next to me who were taken as they looked for bananas in the fields," said Angelique Bendanduka, 32, in Kibati. "They are not the only ones. Many women are being attacked here by the government soldiers. The soldiers also steal food we have been given by aid workers."

There is almost no safety for such women in the midst of conflict. Judicial systems are weak even in peace-time. Police officers can be bribed by those accused of carrying out rapes, and women fear being stigmatised.

"This has to one of the worst places in the world to be a woman," said Martin Hartberg, protection adviser in Goma for Oxfam.

"We have heard reports from every single woman in some villages that they have suffered some kind of sexual abuse in the last five years. It is as if rape has become ingrained into the culture of these armed groups, and it is very difficult to turn that tide without overall security reform in this country."

A new constitution adopted in 2006 clarified definitions of rape and sexual attacks, and introduced a 20-year minimum sentence for those found guilty.

But few women have the money to prosecute, and the judicial system is too riddled with corruption to effectively stamp out the culture of impunity. "Getting rid of the men roaming the countryside with guns is the only way to stop it," Hartberg said.

Ciza is more optimistic, however. "It is simple what has to be done - everyone must be taught that women have value and human rights," he said.

"If that happens, then militia commanders can teach it to their recruits, children will grow up knowing that rape is bad, things can change.

"But it will take a long time. We have already come so far in the wrong direction."

Report can be found online at:
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

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