Five years ago, armed men started to attack the village of Kavumu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They came during the nights, abducted more than 40 children and raped them. The victims were between 8 months and 12 years.

On Monday, the trial against 18 of the alleged perpetrators starts, including a local politician. This is an important step in the fight against impunity in East Congo.

Due to the attacks, which occurred between 2013 and 2016, Kavumu has become a symbol both of the large-scale sexual violence crimes that have devastated the country, and the impunity in Congo. The trial is one of the few of its kind.

Holistic support for victims of Kavumu child rape

Panzi Hospital, founded by Dr Denis Mukwege, has treated the immediate injuries after the attack and helps the children and their families, through a holistic approach, to recover and heal.

Many still suffer from serious physical harm, including permanent damage to their reproductive and abdominal organs. They also carry with them deep psychological trauma that results in anxiety, stress, anger, depression, and even a decrease in social trust.

“The perpetrators broke into our houses at night to kidnap our daughters,” said a mother of a victim who asked for anonymity to protect her from reprisals. “They raped them out of pure superstition, and many suffered injuries that will linger with them the rest of their lives.”

Survivors of Kavumu child rape should receive reparations

A particular challenge in the prosecution of the crimes committed in Kavumu is the age of the victims and their vulnerability. The children will be represented in court by their families and lawyers. Their testimony was recorded on video to avoid re-traumatisation.

The trial is scheduled to conclude on 23 November.

Irrespective of the outcome of the trial, the victims and their families should receive reparations that help them and the community as a whole to restore long-term peace and stability in Kavumu. Reparations should be accessible irrespective of a guilty verdict in the criminal case.

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