Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why "Invisible" Geno-Rape in Africa Is Everyone's Disaster

Now that the world is mostly connected by internet, satellite, air travel and more - now that the economy's meltdown means the global economy's meltdown - now that drought in, say, China, is a concern to people in, say, Kansas - and party affiliation is irrelevant - now when doing what's "good" for America has to also be somehow "good" for the rest of the planet - now we look at the "Invisible War", the unreported war, the conflict in the Congo where mass atrocities are a way of life, in a manner so unspeakable that it defies language.

The object of these atrocities are women. Women on a scale of sheer totality. The Democratic Republic of Congo's roving militias have essentially declared war against the Female in her totality. Any and all women are fair game. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to it, except unabashed, drug-fueled, abuse and poverty-driven, depravity and cruelty. In Bob Herbert's NYT op-ed, he describes some of these horrors:

This sustained campaign of mind-bending atrocities, mostly in the eastern part of the country, has been one of the strategic tools in a wider war that has continued, with varying degrees of intensity, since the 1990s. Millions have been killed.

Women and girls of all ages, from old women to very young children, have been gang-raped, and in many cases their sexual organs have been mutilated. The victims number in the hundreds of thousands. But the world, for the most part, has remained indifferent to their suffering.

How much coverage has this gotten in the media? How much outrage? A few articles last January, overwhelmed by economic and election news, not to mention the ugly Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians. These women have no spokespeople, no connections to us. When you read a title displaying the word "Congo" or "Congolese", do you seriously jump on the link, or, riveted, read the article? It's on the planet, but not particularly significant to most people's worlds. It's time for that to change. This is not just a war. It's a holocaust.

The war itself, between many groups, is over control of the country's wealth, and has been going on since the '90's. It is also directly linked to the famously genocidal war in Rwanda. In fact, news surfaced awhile back of its child soldiers, and at this moment war trials are being held in the Hague over previously reported atrocities. But the extent to which the war has brutalized women and families has just been released in a report by two humanitarians.

The report, "Women's Rights Violations During the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," was written by Lisette Banza Mbombo and Christian Hemedi Bayolo of the Association for the Rebirth of Human Rights in Congo, based in Kinshasa, the capital. It might have gone unnoticed outside the country had it not come to the attention of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Montreal, an independent body created by the Canadian Parliament.

Women almost never get redress for rapes, and the devastating effect on children and families cannot be quantified, let alone remedied, avenged, or somehow alleviated.

The Congo report describes graphically the horrific abuses of a war fought out of sight, where the number of international peacekeepers is impossibly small. Mass rapes, often to demoralize enemies, seem to take place everywhere, the authors found. In the eastern region of South Kivu, the report said, a Congolese rebel army allied to Rwanda had buried women alive after ramming sticks into their vaginas, to terrorize the local population.

International organizations estimate that 2 million people may have died in the Congo war; this report speculates that women account for many of the victims.

The goal of the perpetrators was to humiliate and torture their victims, but also, apparently, to annihilate their humanity. And in that sense, their humanity's annihilation is ours - if we ignore it. The brutalizers cannot be left to gain power or get away with such atrocities. This goes beyond what most people think of as criminal behavior. It is the unspeakable - about which we should, in all conscience, be compelled to speak. Or as Bob Herbert reported,

“These women are raped in front of their husbands, in front of their children, in front of their parents, in front of their neighbors,” said Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist who runs a hospital in Bukavu that treats only the women who have sustained the most severe injuries.

In some cases, the rapists have violated their victims with loaded guns and pulled the triggers. Other women have had their organs deliberately destroyed by knives or other weapons. Sons have been forced at gunpoint to rape their mothers. Many women and girls have been abducted and sexually enslaved.

It is as if, in these particular instances, some window to what we think of as our common humanity had been closed.

It not only destroys the women's sense of their own humanity or worth as beings, but it does the same for everyone around them.

“The second consequence is that the whole family and the entire neighborhood is traumatized by what they have seen. The ordinary sense of family and community is lost after a man has been forced to watch his wife being raped, or parents are forced to watch the rape of their daughters, or children see their mothers raped.

“Neighbors are witnesses to this. Many flee. Families are dislocated. Social relationships are lost. There is no more social network, village network. Not only the victims have been destroyed; the whole village is destroyed.”

As we read this report, we too become witnesses to an unspeakable crime, about which we must speak. Our very humanity, our bond with eachother and with the earth, has been hainously violated. It must not pass without consequence to the guilty.

All this horror for wealth and power? Is this not the "profit motive" gone awry? Is this not the anarchy at the end of extreme anti-government ideology? With the world's resources vanishing under a prolifirating horde of humanity, we need to get honest about values, what is sacred and what is ridiculous. Or we too, may be fighting a war against ourselves, our families, against women, against children, against anything that has real meaning or purpose.

This is your world without "liberal" compassion, without functioning government, all guns, guts, and "glory".... all dysfunctional holocaust.

No comments: