Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Women of the Congo And why they need our help

The Women of the Congo And why they need our help

Everyday women of the Congo are brutally gang raped, tortured, and taken into sexual slavery. Often they are left to carry their assailant's child and/or STD. Their husbands typically abandon them for fear of catching an STD or because they are overwhelmed with shame.

According to Women for Women International (an aid organization in the region) this is happening because of "a complex web of local, regional, and national conflict has devastated much of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; formerly Zaire) for the past several years. Ethnic strife and civil war began in 1997, but had been brewing since 1994, sparked by a massive inflow of refugees from the fighting in Rwanda and Burundi. Rebel groups from neighboring countries entered the conflict in 1998.

The country's most recent conflict, which has been called "Africa's First World War," has roots in a struggle for power and resources, both among domestic and foreign interests. Mortality surveys estimates that 3.3 million people have died as a result of this war since 1998. The majority of these deaths were due to preventable causes such as infectious disease and malnutrition. Involving seven African nations and many groups of armed combatants, this is the deadliest war in documented African history, with the highest civilian death toll in a war since World War II. The war has been marked by gross human rights violations, with a particular toll upon women who face epidemic levels of sexual violence. An estimated four-fifths of rural families have fled their homes at least once during the conflict, and more than 2 million people are currently displaced within the DRC's borders. Despite the country's enormous mineral wealth, several years of war, on the heels of thirty-two years of corrupt, dictatorial rule under Mobutu Sese Seko, (1965-1997), has shattered the country's infrastructure, economy, and ability to provide basic services such as health and education.

A fragile transitional government of national unity has been in operation since June 2003, with the hopes of holding general elections in 2005. This fragile peace agreement was undermined by renewed clashes between government and militia troops in late May and early June of 2004, resulting in a number of civilian deaths, rapes, and the departure of thousands of refugees for Rwanda and Burundi."


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