It’s time to Break the Silence

“An injustice to one is an injustice to all” Martin Luther King

Every day as African women we complain about electricity, water, this & that but do we think about the thousands of women raped in the Eastern part of DRC where rape has become a weapon -.

Let’s forget about endless studies & statistics. From the comfort of our homes & daily routine, let’s remember the Francoise, Honorine, Marie, mothers, sisters , girls who only aspired to live a normal life. But one day, their villages & homes got attacked by heinous armed gangs. Militias? Militaries? Pro-governments? Rebels? One thing is sure they are heartless barbarians who threaten, rape & kill blindly regardless of age. I remember the testimony of an 80 years old raped by 10, 15 men. She couldn’t remember…She was left for dead on the roadside, like an animal. To her own regrets, she had survived to the horror. Women are raped & beaten then kept prisoners as slave sex for an indeterminate period of time. « Johnny mad Dog »  & « Blood Diamonds»  are not just fiction movies. The horror happened for real in Sierra Leone, Liberia & happens everyday in DRC. When I see Hollywood stars & International figures like : Hilary Clinton, Margot Wallstrom, Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Rosario Dawson, etc. who travel regularly to the Eastern Part of Congo in Kivu to give their support to Vday’s action in that region I wonder where is the African sisterhood ? Vday , an NGO created by Eve Ensler the author of Vagina Monologue,  opened the City of Joy in Bukavu. The first class of women trained, emotionally & physically rebuilt graduated in January 2012.

«In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. »Martin Luther King Jr

Women of Africa, women of the world, we are all guilty. I am not an activist or an expert on the topic but I can’t go on pretending nothing is happening. Maybe I am just writing to share my guilt, to stop behaving as  if  the rapes happening on my land were none of my business. The mineral malediction is well documented by expert reports analyzing deeply the consequences of Rwandan War in the Congo. What I want to emphasize here is the system where rapists don’t pay for their crimes. As of today, only 5% have been judged[1]…Many of them are free involved in all kinds of traffic. Should we continue pretending all is well. No. It is time for us to at least acknowledge  the facts & raise awareness around us. Congo might not be your country but Africa is our continent. Let’s break the silence sisters. Worst is when a study states that  40% of the rapists are civilians[2]. Can our conscious stay clear when these barbaric acts are condemned from London to Sidney & Washington to Geneva? We are Africans. We must care. We must condemn. At least.

However, I feel bad when I look back & think about my answer to people whenever I tell them I live in DRC. I usually answer carelessly with a confident  smile  « Oh everything is fine in Kinshasa … How can I say “It’s fine” when within the borders of the country I live in, 48 women[3]  are being raped each hour. The country has been sadly named “World Capital of Rape”. And these statistics are more than figures. They are broken lives, women who live with self-hatred. Wives, sisters, daughters, mothers rejected  by their communities. Fates destroyed by men’s madness. …

While doing researches what worried me the most is the growth of that gangrene within the Congolese society. Studies have shown that women in urban areas are more & more victims of rapists who happen to be a husband, a boyfriend, a neighbor, a relative[4]

 « What we don’t say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear and myths.». Eve Ensler

Fortunately some people like  Mrs Christine Schuler de Schryver  Manager of the City of Joy in Bukavu &Dr  Mukwege  from Panzi Hospital devoted their lives to save women hurt in their flesh & soul. Despite adversity & harsh conditions, these Congolese invested a lot of energy to restore them psychologically, morally & emotionally. Their joint efforts have given hope to many women who were more like zombies upon their arrival. The question is: are African women safe in their countries?  Beyond the gender issues , how secure is an African woman in a conflict zone?

«To call the women  » the weaker sex  » is a defamation; it is the injustice of the man to the woman. If the nonviolence is the law of the humanity, the future belongs to women.»Gandhi

« What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.. » Eve Ensler

Next year, on march 8th, when we will celebrate International women’s day, let’s remember the basics : That day is to remember & claim women’s rights ,not just a get together. Share with your sisters the story of the 400.000 women that have already been raped in Democratic Republic of Congo. Remember  the 1152 that will be raped[5] on that day… Raise your voice so that our sisters, daughters, mothers & grandmothers can walk without fear & sleep peacefully. Tomorrow, anyone of us could be a victim.

©Naboulove (originally published in French  Kabibi Magazine in DRC 2012)


[2] Etude Oxfam/Harvard initiative humanitaire 2010

[3]AJPH avec l’ International Food Policy Research Institute Stony Brook University New York, World Bank, partially funded by US Government

[4] ”American journal of public health” Study states that   22.5%  of the rapes within the sample was done either by a husband or an intimate partner not by soldiers or rebels

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