On this International Women’s Day, Congokazi: U.S.A Congo Women National Association thanks all those institutions, organizations, and individuals that have raised awareness and denounced the violence and rape in Congo (DRC). Our special thanks to Ted Koppel, Anderson Cooper, Oprah Winfrey, Ben Affleck, Eve Ensler, Lisa Jackson, Scott Blanding, Friends of the Congo, UNICEF and the numerous USA and international organizations that have advocated for Congo DRC women and provided much needed assistance.
The United Nations placed the year 2009 under the banner of Violence, yet the effects of rape and violence continue to plague Congolese society. The Congo appears to live an elusive peace while its citizens continue to live in make-shift refugee camps. Congolese children also continue to suffer from malnutrition and both men and women continue to suffer from a devastating psychological war.
While the international community focus on violence is coming to an end, Congokazi vouches to continue the struggle until the rape and violence perpetrated against Congolese women and children (girls and boys) are addressed and the responsible parties prosecuted. Indeed, the recent Rwandan and Congolese coalition has come to an end, but our bodies have been marked. We understand the language, but we will not be subjected to silence and oblivion. We have been branded, objectified, and diminished, but we have not forgotten the meaning of honor and dignity. We understand the language of forgiveness, but we will not forget the world must mete out the violence we have incurred with justice.
On this international women’s day, we have not forgotten the child, the mother and father lain on silent beds of death. We have not forgotten the images of women hacked into pieces, men tied to poles, men castrated and women’s vaginas stabbed with branches. We have not forgotten the fistulas, the spit ejected into our mouths, the mothers rapped before their sons and spouses, the fathers sodomized before their sons. We have not forgotten the women buried alive and nor have we forgotten the trauma, pain, and helplessness of women sexually enslaved.
While The United Nations General Assembly’s “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women” claims all women are entitled to the right of life, liberty and security of person, equal protection under the law, and the right to be protected against “torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (http://www.un-documents.net/a48r104.htm),” Congolese women in refugee camps continue to suffer from a lack of liberty, and are still subjected to mental torture and inhumane treatment. They also lack equal liberty of security of person. The massive women taking refuge at Panzi and other hospitals in eastern Congo witness to Congolese women’s lack of the right to life. While rape perpetrators are free to roam and are embraced as responsible individuals within their communities, Congolese women continue to be ostracized and to endure environmental, physical and mental hardships. Indeed some military rape perpetuators have been condemned recently, but should the United Nations Peacekeepers and the various militias—national and Rwandan—be exempt from like punishment? Do the army personnel of our allies and neighbors have the right to rape and massacre with impunity? Can Nkudabatware be arrested but not be put on trial? Can a nation move forward if impunity reigns? Rape is a war crime and is punishable under international law. Are we seeking to assist the Congolese victim and help her confront the future while we close our eyes to the sources of the trauma and give the perpetrators immunity? Should these perpetrators who, according to RTE News, gang raped women, “often in front of their families and communities” forced male relatives “at gun point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters” and shot “many women –or stabbed [them] in the genital area, and held [women] as slaves […]” and “forced [them] to eat excrement or the flesh of their murdered relatives” (http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0730/rape.html) be given immunity? Those acts are not mere consequences of war but intentional acts to set Congolese society adrift.
On this international women’s day, we ask that you take a moment to think about what you can do for Congolese women, how they can be secured by the Congolese state, and how they can be given their right to dignity and life. Even as we are happy to hear the conviction of the recent Congolese rapists soldiers and that 72 cases are still to be heard, more must be done through the establishment of an international court, prosecuting both national and neighboring rapists, and the re-education of Congolese men and women through a national conversation on rape and violence, leading to the introduction and implementation of stringent laws on rape and violence, before these imported viruses contaminate the entire Congolese nation!
Despite the bleak landscape Congokazi looks forward to a new dawn affirming the Congolese woman’s right to equality, liberty, respect, dignity and right to life and to a peaceful cohabitation with its neighbors. Congokazi wishes you a happy and reflective International Women’s day and looks forward to active participation in making Congo (DRC) the strong tom-tom at the heart of Africa.
Ngwarsungu Chiwengo, President
Congokazi: U.S.A Congo Women National Association
March 08, 2009,
30 Juin 2009: CONGOKAZI INDEPENDENCE DAY WISHES
On the 49th Independence Day anniversary, Congokazi wishes the Congolese diasporic communities and the Congolese nation a happy Independence Day of meditation. This is not a day of celebration but of meditation on the nature and significance of independence and the efforts deployed to acquire the independence of the Congo.
If we celebrate the independence of our country on this day, it is thanks to the dedication, commitment, and aspiration for freedom of the first Congolese elites. Independence for those elites that attended the roundtable was a means of securing the freedom of the Congolese people and their power to auto-determine their future. It was a means to affirm their dignity and humanity. According to Patrice Emery Lumumba, it was a testimony of their “glorious history of fight for liberty.” With their tears of fire and blood, they put an end to the humiliation that was “imposed upon [them] by force.” Independence was the ultimate result of their struggle for political and religious freedom, social justice, the territorial integrity of the country, and the ability “to rule by peace of heart and the will.” In his vision, Congolese women were an integral part of the nation and major players in the development of the Congo.
Independence failed to bring about the expected social welfare. However, during Joseph Desire Mobutu’s regime, despite the patriarchal supervision of CONDIFA and the discriminatory and repressive Codes of Family Law, the Congolese woman became increasingly more educated, involved in Congolese politics, the army, the workforce and, ultimately, the economic backbone of the Congo.
Today, the Congolese woman has an even greater presence in political, economic, social and administrative structures. Unfortunately, like the majority of Congolese, she has yet to be at the center of the nation. The health and social well being of Congolese women, children and men have yet to be a state priority. The population is exposed to mineral waste, for no ecological norms secure the lives of the population. Further, Congolese women, children and men are internally displaced, often times forgotten, and left to the care of International AID organizations. Congolese women are marginalized and foreign interests centered, as the most recent CNDP- Congolese Government Accords giving immunity to those who have perpetuated the most heinous crimes on the bodies of Congolese females attests. They are allowed to roam free, their widows and children protected and provided assistance, whilst the pain and wounds of the displaced Congolese and raped women are obliterated and assumed to be mere casualties of war. The subjected bodies of raped Congolese women, symbolizing the very humiliation and subjection of the nation, are deprived of justice and consequently considered sub-human. Can the nation heal; can it regain its dignity when our scars fail to narrate our wounds?
Our raped nation has been described in a recent interview as a nation in dissolution. What are the implications of such a discourse? Should we assume that we are no longer a nation, that regions and provinces are drifting apart, or that we are moving further into oblivion and out of history? When Kivu, the former basket of the Congo, becomes the recipient of food because the displaced and unstable population is unable to cultivate, the country is, indeed, in dissolution. When the population depends and perceives humanitarian AID as the most reliable employer and not as a means to develop the nation and to be self-reliant, we are truly in dissolution. If the Congo is said to be worse than it was ten years ago, we must determine whether we, as a nation, will make or become history.
The development of the nation is not the sole responsibility of the government but every single one of us. We must not despair but have hope. We can make the Congo the great nation it is meant to be by realizing that we have reached the pit and that it is now time to climb out of the abyss. Through love of the nation, love of liberty, equity, equality and our fellow citizens, we can make the Congo the heart beat of Africa.
Congokazi wishes you a meditative, happy Independence Day and invites all women and men to think and act as Congolese. We, Congokazi women, believe in a prosperous and stable Congo and hope you do too. Pessimism is foregrounded in national and international literature on the status of the nation, yet we continue to believe that, given the means and moved by nationalist sentiments, this Independence Day can augur a new dawn of optimism and faith. We believe that we, as a nation, aspire to contribute to the development of a united and undivided Congo, where we Congolese, women and men, will be at the center and ensured justice, liberty, and right to life.
Happy Thirtieth of June and may long live The Democratic Republic of Congo!
Ngwarsungu Chiwengo, President
June 30, 2009