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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Interahamwe: reports of atrocities from DR Congo

Mike Thomson, a reporter who has just completed a series of stories from the Democratic Republic of Congo for the BBC, tells this disturbing story about how a group of Interahamwe rebels perpetrate atrocities against civilians in Eastern DR Congo.

This testimony, in particular, from a young Congolese woman is graphic, heartbreaking and, in the end, quite simply, unforgettable. (Listener discretion strongly advised. You may have to click "Launch in stand alone player", or the audio link in the upper right.)

From the end of Mike Thomson's BBC report:

At one point when I was doing the interview she was frequently breaking down in tears and I said to her, "Look, would you rather we stop this. Is it too painful for you to relive all this." And she was quite insistent that unless the world knows what is happening in Eastern Congo, it will go on and on, and nothing will be done to stop it.

What is going on in Eastern Congo is, in part, this:

In 2005 alone, there were more than 40,000 reported rapes or other serious sexual assaults in Congo, most of them committed by either rebel or government soldiers. Murders, kidnappings and robberies are also rife. Few, however, face justice for their crimes in a country where the criminal justice system has, in many places, virtually collapsed.

Those who are convicted of such offences can usually buy their way out of jail, many others simply offer to pay bereaved families the price of a coffin for the loved one they killed. The government in Kinshasa still insists that it's winning the battle against marauding militia gangs in the east. With the help of 17,000 UN peacekeepers, the biggest and most expensive force of it's kind in the world, it claims to have demobilised around 150,000 rebels.

This still leaves an estimated 70,000 armed militia still roaming the bush, some of them children as young as seven. As many as 10,000 of these are Rwandan Hutu militia known as Interahamwe, who fled here after their part in the 1994 genocide across the border which left up to two million people dead.

This BBC photo essay by Anna Kari and Suzanne Fisher, non-graphic but still disturbing, rounds out a portrait of suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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2 Comments:

  • thank you for noticing, kid. i am stunned that the same people who make such a big deal about the incredibly horrible situation in darfur rarely even acknowledge the far bloodier abbatoir of the congo. i mean, you hear people talk about rwanda as some "never again (and we mean it this time)" thing, when the interhamwe that committed the worst of the satrocities in rwanda are still at it.

    it just breaks ones heart, but looking and bearing witness is still better than turning ones eyes and pretending you didn't see it.

    thank you for bearing witness.

    By Blogger 無名 - wu ming, at 11:34 PM  

  • thanks wu ming.

    I plan on writing more about Africa on k/o in the coming months. This story was just too powerful to not pass on.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 3:07 PM  

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