In honor of Valentine’s Day I attended a benefit production of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. This year the V-day global campaign focus is “Stop Raping our Greatest Resource: Power to Women in the DRC.” Over 5.4 million people have died in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1998 – currently 45,000 people die each month. Thousands of women experience brutal sexual violence on a daily basis. Thankfully journalists like Nicholas Kristof are keeping the DRC in the news – most recently with this moving video of a Message for President Obama. However, as one Congolese woman says, “we speak but nothing changes.” The Enough Project highlights how our demand for conflict minerals – the material in the cellphone in your pocket – fuels this deadly war. Congolese women and men risk their lives so we can talk on our cellphones, check our email and update our Facebook status. What will we do for them?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: February 10, 2010
I’ve learned some new words.
One is “autocannibalism,” coined in French but equally appropriate in English. It describes what happens when a militia here in eastern Congo’s endless war cuts flesh from living victims and forces them to eat it.
Another is “re-rape.” The need for that term arose because doctors were seeing women and girls raped, re-raped and re-raped again, here in the world capital of murder, rape, mutilation.
This grotesque vocabulary helps answer a question that I’ve had from readers: Why Congo? After a previous visit to eastern Congo, a reader named Jim D. objected. “Yes there are horrible things happening in Africa,” he wrote on my blog. “None are anything we can do anything about by ourselves.”
“My question is why do you not concentrate on this nation’s poor,” he asked. “Yes, Africa suffers, but you need to look in your own house first.”
Jim D. has a legitimate complaint, echoed by other readers: We have enormous needs at home, and we shouldn’t let foreign crises distract us from them.
But do we really need to say that we can’t address suffering in Congo or Haiti, or anywhere else, because we have our own needs? Particularly when the Congo war has claimed so many lives (perhaps more than six million), isn’t it time for the U.S. to lead a major, global diplomatic push for peace?
My Sunday column is again from Congo, through the lens of a doctor (Denis Mukwege) and his patient (Jeanne Mukuninwa). They are both extraordinary figures, and Dr. Mukwege is sometimes mentioned — most deservedly — as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. His Panzi Hospital is an oasis in South Kivu, just as the Heal Africa Hospital is in North Kivu.
(There is, though, a widespread misapprehension that most of the vaginal fistulas here are caused by rape. Some are, but the great majority are now caused by obstructed labor in childbirth. In 2009, Panzi Hospital received about 400 fistula cases, with about eight caused by rape. But Panzi receives about 10 rape cases a day, and those are only the tip of the iceberg, since most rape survivors never seek treatment.)
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: February 6, 2010
It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.
But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.
What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation, in ways that sear survivors like Jeanne Mukuninwa, a beautiful, cheerful young woman of 19 who somehow musters the courage to giggle. Her parents disappeared in the fighting when she had just turned 14 — perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up — so she moved in with her uncle.
Do you live in Oklahoma? Or have any friends and family in the lovely Sooner State? Then you need to get on the phone and tell Senator Tom "Dr. No" Coburn to stop blocking the passage of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), under the leadership of self-proclaimed messiah Joseph Kony, has terrorized a wide swath of central Africa for over 20 years, and became particularly notorious for their use of child soldiers and child sex slaves. What started as a brutal rebellion in Northern Uganda has now spread across the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Darfur, and the Central African Republic. In the past few months alone, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced, and thousands more have been either killed or abducted by LRA forces. According to an Enough Project researcher, as many as 400 people have been killed in the last two months. Recent waves of violence also threaten to further destabilize already-precarious situations in South Sudan, and possibly even Darfur.
As part of my work covering the LRA, I have been traveling to most of the LRA affected areas, where I have conducted numerous interviews with victims of LRA violence and policymakers alike. Based on my findings on the ground, there are at least five important actions that the policy team in charge of designing a multilateral strategy to address the LRA issues should focus on. Read More »
For this week’s Presidents Day Congressional recess, Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have headed to central and east Africa with plans to visit four countries during their six-day trip, including Congo and Sudan. Read More »
“[P]olicy makers and profiteers – near and far – must do more to remove the underpinnings of the war itself,” wrote Alan Doss, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, in a letter to the editor of the NYTimes. Read More »
More than 8,000 rapes were reported in eastern Congo in 2009, according to a new U.N. estimate. These numbers are staggering in and of themselves, but a recent connection made by the UNAIDS organization highlighted the fact that these atrocities are more than a humanitarian crisis; they are also a vital public health concern. Read More »