The Rape of a Nation

Robin Hammond

As many as half a million women and children have been raped during the Democratic Republic of Congo's bloody war. Robin Hammond met the people who are living through the most heinous crime against humanity of the 21st century.~Basamae~The last thing Basamae Maombi would see was the face of the man raping her. She had recognised him and called out his name, hoping the pain and indignity of the attack would stop. But it only made things worse. He held her down, pulled out his dirty knife and gouged out both of her eyes. ~As shocking as Basamae's story is, it is not unusual in a country ravaged by a war that has claimed over five million lives and seen as many as half a million women and children become victims of sexual violence.~The hospital in which she lies in the border town of Goma, the capital of the war-ravaged Congolese province of North Kivu, has kept her alive physically, but they have few resources and the emotional trauma she has endured will not be treated here.

When Basamae awakens, she puts on a bright blue dress that has been delicately embroidered with small flowers. The colourful attire is not unusual for a Congolese woman but seems out of place in the drab ward with its stained walls and rusted beds. She sits up to have her picture taken and turns her face toward the sun coming in through the window. She can feel the sun but will not see it again.~Elizabeth~Maombi Elizabeth tells her story without emotion. A once pretty young woman, she is now covered in the scars from 3rd degree burns. She was lying in her tent with her husband and youngest child. Her other three children were playing outside with their friends. Suddenly the children's laughter stopped. A knife tore into the roof of the tent above Elizabeth. Her husband darted out the entrance of the tent. She went to follow but by the time she had picked up her 4-year-old child, three armed men were inside her makeshift home. They pushed her to the ground and drew their weapons. One of the men placed a gun to her child's head. 'If you scream, she dies' he said. Then the men took turns raping Elizabeth. Her young child stood witness to the entire attack. ~~Some time during the rape, Elizabeth lost consciousness. It wasn't until two weeks later that she was able to understand what had happened. As the men left the tent they set the canvas and grass construction alight. Neighbours ran to save the occupants. Elizabeth survived. Her daughter did not. ~Sexual violence against women has become part of modern warfare. In 2008 the United Nations officially recognised rape and sexual violence as a weapon used by armies against civilians. The Security Council voted unanimously that sexual violence was 'a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in and forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.' According to UN Special Representative Margot Wallström, rape is not simply committed randomly by soldiers in 'the fog of war', but is often a deliberate and orchestrated policy during conflict 'aimed to destroy not only people, but their sense of being a people'.~~A full text by Robin Hammond is available. ~Watch the video here.

 

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      26 year old Maombi was living in a camp for...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      14-year-old Asma Abdu. Two soldiers attacked and...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      18 year old Gina Riziki, pregnant as a result of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      22 year old Basemae Maombi made the 'mistake' of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      31-year-old Noella sits on a bed in Gesom hospital,...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Nine-year-old Ntagisanimana who two weeks prior to...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Nine-year-old Ntagisanimana sits on a hospital bed...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      16 year old Rikizi and her baby born as a result of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A woman collects food in the bush. Many survivors of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A boy stands in front of a washing line hung with...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      UN Peacekeepers on parade in Goma. The president of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Women and children in a market in Goma.

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      18 year old Zawadi Devota who receives treatment for...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      31 year old Foorar and her 18 month old baby Chiancey...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      16 year old Leonce, and her baby born as a result of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Rehemi, who became pregnant after she was raped, now...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      14-year-old Asma Abdu (right). Two soldiers attacked...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      18 year old Zawadi Devota at a hospital where she...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      13 year old Neema and her three month old baby Foraha...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A young woman with fistula, which she contracted as a...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A young woman with fistula, which she contracted as a...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      21 year old Sarama and her 10 month old baby Jedite...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      48-year-old Nabwani and her baby, born as a result of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      34 year old Mwabe Chantal with her 10 month old child...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      17 year old Anna Nicole and her seven month old baby...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Women with fistula, which they contracted as a result...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      38-year-old Vumilia Kimanizanya with her triplets,...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Mawazo Luwendo lies in a hospital where she is being...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A street in Goma which is formed from volcanic lava...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      22 year old Basemae Maombi made the 'mistake' of...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      14-year-old Asma Abdu. Two soldiers attacked and...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Children stand in front of a billboard on a wall in...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Rachel Uwiduhaye, a 23-year-old woman who is pregnant...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      Sister Deodata the co-ordinator of children's charity...

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      DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

      A montage of photographs showing children resident at...

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      Children resident at Talitakum House are illuminated...

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