The Most Dangerous Place In The World To Be A Woman *updated*
Today, Secretary Clinton will be visiting IDP camps in the town of Goma, DRC, an area that has been brutally ravaged by war and struggles to provide the most minimal services for the people of Goma, particularly its women and children.
According to an article in All Africa:
Briefing reporters while flying to the DRC, Clinton indicated that she had encountered resistance to visiting the east, although she did not indicate whether this had come from her American advisers or DRC officials.
According to a transcript of the briefing released by the State Department, she said that “It was very important for me to go to Goma. I made that clear when we were planning this trip. A lot of concerns were raised and many objections. And I said, I know we can get there and we’re going. We’re going on a UN [United Nations] plane because we can’t take our plane in because it’s too big.”
She added that while in the east, where she will meet with President Joseph Kabila, “I will be pressing very hard for not just assistance to help those who are being abused and mistreated, and particularly the women who are turned into weapons of war through the rape that they experience, but also looking for ways to try to end this conflict.”
In an interview with the DRC’s Radio Okapi, Clinton said ending sexual violence “has to start with making sure that the military of the DRC does not engage in any sexual and gender-based violence…”
In her briefing to journalists, Clinton also said that in a meeting in Luanda on Monday, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos had suggested that since a lot of money was being earned from minerals in the eastern DRC, there “has to be a way” in which the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and Rwanda could collectively prevent the mineral trade from funding militias in the region…[emphasis added]
Secretary Clinton is putting her own safety on the line in order to draw attention to one of the most under-reported stories in the world today. The amazing humanitarian health organization, Heal Africa, which works to care for the physical and psychological needs of the men, women and children who have survived violence in the DRC, has said this of the Secretary’s trip:
HEAL Africa thanks U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton for her commitment to peace, justice and protection for women in Congo. We know that it does take a village to raise a child. The mothers and children of northeastern Congo are crying for peace. The villages need to be rebuilt. Thank you for coming to visit HEAL Africa.
Increased diplomacy will make a difference. The leaders of Congo and Rwanda met last week and agreed to re-open the economic union of the Great Lakes Countries. The issues that must be addressed will not be solved by more arms. HEAL Africa’s work with villagers continues, but in order to avert famine, and a new generation of recruits for militias, the governments must agree on peace.
Photos from the IDP camps in and around Goma, including the Mogunga IDP camp where Secretary Clinton is reportedly visiting:
UPDATE: Secretary Clinton has toured the IDP camps- Thanks to PYW for this, from Yahoo news:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton toured a refugee camp Tuesday crowded with victims of violence and malnutrition, and demanded an end to the rampant sexual abuse that has staggered war-ravaged eastern Congo.
“We believe there should be no impunity for the sexual and gender-based violence committed by so many — that there must be arrests and prosecutions and punishment,” she said during a press conference with Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba in the eastern city of Goma.
Clinton toured Magunga Camp, a shelter that is home to 18,000 men, women and children uprooted from their homes by the conflict that raged off and on for the past decade, killing more than 5 million people.
She met with several residents of the camp, who told her that they are suffering from malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea. Women and young boys and girls, the residents told Clinton, are susceptible to rape mainly when they leave the camp to go into the forest to gather wood for cooking.
One camp official said a young boy had been raped on Monday.
“We really want to return home, that’s why we are asking America to help stop the fighting,” Chantale Mapendo, who lives in the camp, told Clinton.
“That’s why I’m here,” Clinton replied. “I want you to be able to go home.”
“I wanted to see for myself what was happening here,” she said as she picked her way through paths in the camp littered with volcanic rock…
From the NYT today:
Speaking during an unprecedented visit by an American secretary of state to Goma, in the epicenter of Congo’s war-torn east, she said the American government would help train gynecologists, supply rape victims with video cameras to document violence and dispatch military engineers to help train Congolese police officers to crack down on rapists.
“This problem is too big for one country to solve alone,” she said at a round table meeting here with Congolese doctors and human rights advocates. Earlier, after meeting with female rape victims at a camp for internally displaced people outside of Goma, she said she was deeply moved by their experiences.
“I’m not here to leave a business card, but I can’t wave a magic wand either,” she told the human rights workers who pressed her for concrete assistance…
After meeting with the officials, Mrs. Clinton and her entourage drove to the displaced persons camp on the city’s outskirts, where 18,000 people camp on a lava field left behind by a devastating volcanic eruption several years ago. She toured the camp for about 15 minutes, during which she was surrounded by hundreds of people forced to leave their villages by the violence.
One woman, Chantal Mapendo, 32, came up to Mrs. Clinton and told her how she’d been living for three years with her six children in the camp and that it was dangerous for her to go out to look for food, because women were often raped doing so. “Our life is very bad,” she said.
“I just met with President Kabila and told him we want to help you return home,” Mrs. Clinton told her.
Mrs. Clinton also met with local aid workers who told her about the horrors in the area, including the rape of an 8-year-old boy on Monday.
Human rights officials describe a certain “Congo fatigue” now creeping in among those trying to solve the conflict in Congo. So many approaches have been tried — a billion-dollar-a-year United nations peacekeeping mission; extensive disarmament programs; several regional peace treaties; and high-level diplomat visits like this — but nothing seems to work. It is still an intensely predatory conflict, driven by a mix of ethnic, commercial, nationalist and criminal interests.
From the beginning of the war in the mid-1990s, sexual violence has been one of the more stubborn expressions of lawlessness and instability. Many hope Mrs. Clinton’s visit can help change this.
“Congo suffers from a deadly attention deficit disorder,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of Enough Project, an anti-genocide group. The fact Mrs. Clinton is here, especially in Goma, “is a major signal that the deadliest war in the world just shot up a few slots in the pecking order.”