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Violence, Rape, and Murder in the Congo

A shocking seven-minute video showing women being beaten, raped, and beheaded in a public square in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has surfaced. CNN has reported that the video first started circulating on a popular messaging app called Whatsapp. The video was later validated in an article from a publication called France 24.

France 24 reports, “The video, which lasts seven minutes and forty seconds, was filmed on April 8, 2017 in the town of Luebo, in the province of Kasaï-Occidental. The events took place in the main square, referred to by locals as ‘the parking lot.’”

They continue noting that “the footage shows a naked woman being pushed out in front of a crowd by members of an armed group claiming allegiance to the Kamuina Nsapu rebel movement. The group seized the town, population 40,000, on March 31 and maintained a reign of terror for several weeks before they were ousted by the Congolese army on April 19.”

It is also important to mention that woman who appears in the video was a local restaurant owner accused of serving a “forbidden food – fish – to the rebels.” The rebel movement, Kamuina Nsapu, formed last summer after the police killed a local leader who opposed the government.

The DRC has a long history of unrest, instability, and violence. In an article published in 2007 by The New York Times, titled “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War,” it was noted that every day, 10 women and girls show up to a hospital after having been raped.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, said, “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear. They are done to destroy women.” Mukwege has aptly earned the name “the man who mends women” for the work he has done while treating women and girls who are survivors of rape and sexual violence.

In a more recent article published by CNN, Mukwege explained that rape and sexual violence are used as weapons of war. Recalling a story about a former patient in 1999, he shared, “They brought me a woman who had been raped by several men in uniform. She hadn’t just been raped. They had also shot at her genitals. I had never seen anything like it. I thought it must be an exceptional case, the act of a mad man. I couldn’t imagine that it would become the work I do for probably the rest of my life.”

The current outbreak of violence being displayed in the DRC has many fearing a return to the ‘90s bloodbath. During his interview with CNN, Mukwege even said, “Recent events have reminded us of previous experiences we’ve lived in Congo. In Congo, the fact that we have no memory means we tend to repeat history.”

Mukwege also admits that he fears the sexual violence won’t stop even if the other violence dies down. African societies still need to address the harmful cultural norms that are forced on women. He says, “What women endure in our societies in times of peace is a latent form of what they then suffer in times of conflict. We have to root out patriarchy; we raise our sons by stripping them of any emotion and our daughters end up in the kitchen. Africa’s future begins when girls know that they are equal to boys.”

The horrific video that surfaced has given everyone a glimpse at just how bad the conflict has become in the DRC. The prevalence of sexual violence alone needs the world’s attention. As Mukege said, “I absolutely have to tell the world, show the world, that there is a collective responsibility to act in DRC. We share the same humanity and we cannot continue to allow economic wars to be fought on women’s bodies.”

Featured Image by Global Panorama on Flickr

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