According to the United Nations, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is the “rape capital” of the world. In the past twelve years, 200,000 women and girls have been raped during the violence and genocide that had riddled the country.
Rapists are often Congolese soldiers, which are said to grossly lack discipline as well as pay. During the genocide in the country, more than 500,000 people have been displaced, driven away from their own homes and villages. Villages have been set afire, hundreds have been murdered, and women—and even some men—have been raped in the conflict.
18,000 peacekeepers, diplomatic visits, and peace treaties have done nothing to curb the violence.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Goma, a city that’s been in the middle of this conflict in Congo. She has been traveling in Africa for a seven-nation tour to raise awareness about the violence that these women and girls face every day.
Secretary Clinton urged the U.N. and the Congolese government to quickly act against this violence. She met with victims and was horrified to meet a woman who was gang-raped while she was eight months pregnant. While villagers were able to save her life by stopping her bleeding with grass, they were unable to save her baby.
“The U.S. condemns these attacks and those who commit them as they are guilty against crimes against humanity,” she firmly stated, also announcing that the U.S. was increasing assistance for economic, medical and legal services for these survivors. The $17 million plan, says Clinton, will be used to fight “evil in its basest form.”
The aid includes American-trained doctors to help survivors with medical needs, military officers to engineer new facilities as well as to train police officers in the Congo to control and apprehend rapists, and even video cameras for victims to document the violence in the country.
She also urged the Congolese government to control their own soldiers, and to protect the people of the country rather than make them victims.
Secretary Clinton is the first secretary of state to enter the war zone in Congo. Her bravery and steadfast commitment to human rights are greatly appreciated. Hopefully her efforts will mark a turning point for the victims of the attacks in Congo.
You can send Secretary Clinton a thank-you note here, and ask her to please continue to make the victims in Congo—as well as all people subjected to sexual violence—a priority.