Project Syndicate - NEW YORK – The violence in Congo is unspeakable. But, if the horror of Congo’s recent wars – which have killed more people than any war since World War II – is to end, the unspeakable must be spoken.
Across the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, government soldiers, members of renegade government military units, and myriad militias are gang raping untold thousands of women. They are making sex slaves of some women, branding some victims like cattle, and maiming and mutilating women and girls, some as young as three years old, by destroying their vaginas and other internal organs.
Sometimes, the gunmen force their victims’ fathers, brothers, and husbands to rape them, or the women to eat the flesh of their murdered relatives. Afterward, many of the women find themselves utterly alone as they suffer the physical and psychological effects of trauma and cope with destitution, unwanted pregnancies and children, HIV/AIDS, and ostracism by their loved ones who shun them as “diseased” or “tainted.”
Who are these killers and rapists, these men who have committed appalling crimes for more than a decade with complete impunity? Many are the so-called “genocidaires” who fled from Rwanda into Congo after participating in the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis in 1994. Others are Rwandan rebels and members of Congo’s army. Still others are men and boys recruited and press-ganged into militia units.
Violence has displaced more than 350,000 people in eastern Congo since the beginning of 2007. Recently, thousands more fled fresh outbreaks of fighting between local militias and supporters of Laurent Nkunda, a renegade general of Congo’s army, who has rejected a call to begin disarming his troops. A United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in eastern Congo was supposed to have protected the region’s civilians; the peacekeeping force’s failure to safeguard the women has gone unremarked, in part, because a veil of silence surrounds what is occurring.
Women in the eastern Congo have no say in the decision-making that drives the conflict consuming so many of their lives. They have no access to political and economic power in a society that considers them of scant value.
Congo’s government has undertaken no significant effort to bring those responsible for these gender atrocities to justice; new laws have paid lip service to sexual violence, but no one has been prosecuted. The international community, too, has failed. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is investigating the crimes in eastern Congo, has only this week indicted the first Congolese militia commander for gender-based crimes.
It is Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s duty to speak up, to take a leadership role, to bring this situation before the Security Council, call for it to meet in a special session, and urge it to take effective action immediately. Thousand more peacekeepers – let many of them be women – must be deployed in the affected provinces.
The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Ocampo Moreno, should be urged to accelerate his investigations and, once the evidence is sufficient, bring charges against those who have committed these crimes or failed to discipline or prosecute the perpetrators. The local authorities should be assisted in efforts to pursue, arrest, and prosecute accused perpetrators before new local tribunals that enjoy significant prosecutorial and police powers. Support should be given to courageous local women’s groups that are providing care to the victims. Medical and other assistance is needed to treat the overwhelming numbers of victims.
If the people with the power to end the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo maintain their silence and continue to do nothing, the perpetrators will grow only bolder in their destruction of women’s lives. When impunity for unspeakable acts goes unchallenged, those acts become even more unspeakable.
Maryam Elahi is chair of the International Human Rights Committee of the American Bar Association and director of the International Women’s Program at the Open Society Institute in NY.
The Saudi aggression’s warplanes and warships continued to breach the ceasefire on Saturday in the provinces of Hodeidah, Taiz and Mareb, a military official said.
The official explained that the battleships of the Saudi aggression opened fire on the coastal city of Mocha in Taiz, while the surveillance planes continued flying in the sky of Thubab district and the western coast of Taiz.
The National delegation met on Thursday in Kuwait with eighteen ambassadors to Yemen.
During the meeting, the delegation members reviewed with the ambassadors the economic conditions in the country because of the aggression and the restrictions imposed on the Yemeni people, particularly obstructing ships movements, trade, transactions of the Central Bank of Yemen.
They stressed the need for a actual ceasefire and all military operations, affirming that Yemen needs an urgent political solution, taking into consideration the economic and security situations.
The national delegation stressed that after the 18 month-long aggression against Yemen, the other party cannot be recognized as legitimate regarding arms handover and the rest of procedural steps.
It is not difficult to form a consensual transitional government and it is possible to be agreed upon in principle, they said.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, has concluded his evaluative visit to the province of Sa’ada.
The UN official urged all warring parties to maintain their commitment to the cessation of hostilities and allowing unconditional access to humanitarian organizations.
McGoldrick also requested from the international community to increase the level of support provided to Yemen.
"It is not possible to stop the suffering in Yemen only through finding a political solution", he said, hoping to continue the cessation of hostilities to allow expanding the humanitarian activities and paving the way for peace.
McGoldrick met, during his visit, with Sa'ada Governor, the Executive Council of the province and local authorities in Al-Qutaber to discuss the need for increasing support in the areas of quartering, health and education.
He urged to maintain the health and educational facilities protected as neutral facilities during armed conflicts.
Emir of Kuwait Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah received on Tuesday the national delegation headed by Mohamed Abdul-Salam and Aref al-Zoka.
In the meeting, al-Sabah confirmed his country's keenness on bringing peace in Yemen and reaching a peaceful solution, hoping that the peace talks in Kuwait will reach a comprehensive solution for the country.
The Emir of Kuwait stressed his keenness on stopping hostilities in Yemen, pointing that the efforts made by Kuwait aimed to succeed the talks.
For his part, Mohammed Abdulsalam affirmed the importance of the Kuwaiti role in bringing peace in Yemen, conforming the position of the national forces to find a just solution in Yemen.
The UN envoy to Yemen confirmed on Monday that the consensus of the participants in Yemeni peace talks held in Kuwait on bringing peace makes reaching a solution possible.
"There is no doubt that there are significant differences in views, but the consensus of the participants to bring peace makes it possible to reach a solution,” the UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement issued after the talks session Monday.
“There are only two options; either to continue the war or to consult and make concessions in order to achieve peace and all parties should assume responsibility for their decisions,” the UN envoy added.
The Saudi-led coalition has continued to fly intensively on the skies of many provinces, including Sana'a, Taiz, Mareb, Sa'ada, Mahweet, Lahj, Hajjah, Shabwa, Hodeida, Jawf.
A military official said the Riyadh's hirelings targeted the army and popular committees' sites in areas of Beer Basha, al-Khalel in Khadir district, in Jahmaliyah, Klabah, al-Salal and 40 Street in al-Dhamgah district in Taiz with light and medium weapons.
Moreover, the Riyadh's hirelings pounded the army and popular committees sites in al-Shabakah area, al-Ghawi Mount and al-Ain Mount, al-Jurf Mount, al-Shuqairah valley, Hasanat area with mortars in al-Waze'yah district of Taiz, according to the official.
The army and popular committees sites were also targeted by the mercenaries in Nehm district of Sana'a province.
In Mareb province, the hirelings bombarded the army and popular committees sites in al-Mashjah, Hilan Mount, al-Rabiah in Serwah district with medium and heavy weapons.
The Saudi fighter jets dropped flare bombs on different areas of Razeh district in Sa'ada, he said.
The hirelings pounded also areas in al-Ghail and al-Moton districts and targeted sites of the army and popular committees Aibar valley in Jawf with light weapons.