More than 800 Congolese survivors of wartime sexual violence gathered in Bukavu on Thursday to protest against a recent increase in violence, following two recent mass rapes in the east of the country.
These survivors are urging the Congolese authorities to ensure the security of the population and the protection of rape victims and women in particular.
In an unprecedented act of protest, Mouvement des Survivant.e.s, a national network of Congolese survivors mobilized hundreds of other women, all of whom experienced rape or other brutal forms of sexual violence during the decades of conflict in the Congo. The protest is an extraordinary step in speaking out against the atrocities they have endured, which are too often surrounded by silence and stigma.
Demonstration organized by Mouvement des Survivant.e.s
The peaceful demonstration was organized in response to a mass rape mid-April in Wameli village in the province of South Kivu. During the night of April 15, members of a local militia raped several women in the latest upsurge of violence in the region.
This mass rape comes only months after unidentified armed men in February attacked another village, Kabikokole, and raped more than 50 women and girls, according to media reports. The assailants looted a health centre, stealing money and medicines, and also kidnapped and assaulted dozens of women.
Part of the Global Survivor Network
“Women and girls are regularly victims of sexual assault while they carry out their daily activities, such as: going to the field, fetching wood or water, during travels to buy or sell products,” the survivors said in a statement which will be presented to both the Governor of South Kivu and the UN stabilization mission, MONUSCO, this week. “Our vision is a country without rapes and violence against women.”
This group of women is supported by a larger network, the Global Survivor Network, who stand with the Congolese women in solidarity and support the demonstration in Bukavu, which was initially planned as a march but authorization was revoked by local authorities only hours before, without explanation. Undeterred, the women chanted at the gathering on Thursday: “We say loud and clear: no more rapes in South Kivu, Congo, Africa or the world!”
> Read the memorandum of the sexual violence survivors in DRC (pdf).