A WEAPON OF WAR: SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN SOUTH KIVU, DRC
For three and a half years, Arche d'Alliance, a human rights
organisation, has been involved in a project investigating, monitoring,
reporting and offering legal and socio-medical assistance to women
victims of sexual violence in the territories of Uvira and Fizi. The
project has also been interested in cases of male victims of sexual
violence from 2003 to date.
In the large and populated Fizi Territory, situated in southern South
Kivu province, the two principal rival armed groups which have been
fighting for five years - the army of the RCD-Goma and Mayi-Mayi
combatants (FAP) - have all committed grave abuses and human rights
violations against the civilian populations. Sexual violence,
particularly rape, indecent assault and forced pregnancy have been
committed against women and girls on a large scale in Fizi Territory.
However, a particular phenomenon relating to this sexual violence has
also occurred in Fizi against many men. Men have been subjected to
sexual violence through forced anal sex. In the majority of cases,
combatants belonging to foreign armed forces (Burundian and Rwandan)
have committed these acts. Forces involved include the Rwandan
Interahamwe and elements of the Burundian Front for the Defence of
Democracy (Front pour la défense de la démocratie - FDD) who fought
with the Congolese Mayi-Mayi (FAP) combatants against the RCD-Goma
rebellion, supported by Rwanda and Burundi.
Thousands of male victims of sexual violence were identified especially
in the large Ngandja community. Numerous cases were also registered in
the community of Mutambala in Fizi Territory. In the majority of cases,
investigators limited themselves to identifying the victims, although
Arche d'Alliance supported about ten victims who agreed to appear
publicly and receive assistance for their basic needs and medical care.
The head of the liaison office in Bakara/Fizi, Ms Marie Mulasi, is
responsible, in particular, for assistance to male victims of sodomy or
indecent assault. She directs them to the Médecins Sans Frontières
hospital in Baraka for appropriate medical treatment and temporary
solutions to their social needs, with the support of office materials
from Arche d'Alliance based in Uvira.
Techniques used by perpetrators of sodomy
Perpetrators of sodomy in Fizi use violence and death threats against
their victims before imposing sexual acts. Often victims are stabbed
and burned before or after sexual aggression, particularly if they
tried to resist. In addition, victims have indicated that often they
were abused in the presence of their wives and children. In Fizi
Territory, men were sometimes gathered in villages by Interahamwe and
FDD and subjected to sexual aggression under death threats.
The objective of sexual violence
Men are victims of sodomy in Fizi for various reasons. In the majority
of cases, perpetrators of sexual crimes take revenge against men
suspected of conspiring with the enemy forces of the RCD-Goma. In
addition, the aggressors act to intimidate, humiliate and discourage
their victims from collaborating with the enemy.
Male sodomy victims are traumatised. They are abandoned by their wives.
Raped women are also often renounced by their husbands. In addition,
the investigation by Arche d'Alliance reveals the transmission of
venereal diseases and particularly HIV/AIDS, as well as the death of
several victims who did not receive medical attention. The most common
symptoms are anal and generalised pain.
In addition, male sodomy victims suffer social rejection and
stigmatisation. The fact that in several impoverished households it is
the women who meet the needs of the family by undertaking resourceful
activities means that abandoned male sodomy victims face serious
socio-economic problems and may not be able to meet their basic needs.
In addition, they lose respect in their communities.
Sodomy and indecent assault, of which several men are victim in Fizi,
constitutes an attack on their dignity and their physical integrity.
The consequences of these inhuman, humiliating, degrading and cruel
acts are tragic. They have a decisive impact on the lives of victims,
who today are unhappy, at risk of death and without any family support.
The presence today of perpetrators in the communities constitutes a
permanent danger for the rest of the population in the area. At the end
of March 2004, the association Arche d'Alliance sent its members to
several areas of the two communities most affected by the phenomenon.
Delegates of the association were responsible for leading an
awareness-raising campaign among other sodomy victims in order that
they may benefit from medical treatment as a priority.
a.) To the authorities
In addressing this report to the offices of the Ministries of National
Defence, Interior, Health and Human Rights, Arche d'Alliance recommends
that the Congolese government bring peace to Fizi Territory and the
rest of the province so that everyone benefits from security. To the
political, administrative and military authorities of Fizi, to whom the
association has also sent copies of this report, the association
requests that they respond to the social and medical concerns of
hundreds of male victims of sodomy in Fizi.
b.) To partners
The association Arche d'Alliance solicits assistance in putting
pressure on foreign belligerents who are still present on Congolese
territory and continue to occupy their respective positions in Fizi.
These groups must stop committing the sexual crime that is sodomy. The
association also asks partners to contribute to raising awareness among
local communities so that they respect human rights and, in particular,
so that the inhuman cases of sodomy are denounced and condemned.
Finally, the association requests social, humanitarian and medical
assistance from its partners.
* Arche d'Alliance is a local human rights organisation operating in
the DRC. This article appeared recently on Kirimba (www.kirimba.org/),
a web-site largely dedicated to addressing events in Burundi. Kirimba
is coordinated by a member of the extended Africa team of UPEACE, Mr.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org