02/08/2010

Congo: world capital of rape, torture and mutilation

The World Capital of Killing

Published: February 6, 2010

Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times

Jeanne Mukuninwa.
It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.

But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.
What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation, in ways that sear survivors like Jeanne Mukuninwa, a beautiful, cheerful young woman of 19 who somehow musters the courage to giggle. Her parents disappeared in the fighting when she had just turned 14 — perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up — so she moved in with her uncle.

A few months later, the extremist Hutu militia invaded the home. She remembers that it was the day of her very first menstrual period — the only one she has ever had.

“First, they tied up my uncle,” Jeanne said. “They cut off his hands, gouged out his eyes, cut off his feet, cut off his sex organs, and left him like that. He was still alive.

“His wife and his son were also there. Then they took all of us into the forest.” That militia is known for kidnapping people and enslaving them for months, even years. Men are turned into porters, and girls into sex slaves...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/opinion/07kristof.html

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