- By P.J. Aroon
Secretary Clinton must have read the blog post I wrote Tuesday in which I encouraged her to at least make a statement about the more than 179 horrific gang-rapes that occurred in Congo recently. Wednesday she issued a statement in which she strongly condemns the atrocities and states that "my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."
She also mentioned that only 11 months ago, she presided over a U.N. Security Council session in which members unanimously passed a resolution to end wartime sexual violence. It’s an absolute shame then that the United Nations hasn’t acted fast enough on this resolution, and it’s outrageous that this despicable violence occurred only about 20 miles from a U.N. peacekeeping base, likely with peacekeepers’ foreknowledge that rebels were in the area where the rape spree was perpetrated.
The United Nations spends $1 billion annually on this peacekeeping mission, which is tasked with protecting civilians. The international body claims the mission only found out about the rapes after they occurred. When Inner City Press asked why the mission was unaware of a four-day rape spree so nearby, a U.N. spokesman said the area is "densely wooded." You would think that by now the peacekeepers would have figured out how to operate in a thick jungle. Inner City Press offers a great suggestion: Use some of the $1 billion to give civilians flares and satellite phones so they can communicate about danger.
The Security Council will be holding emergency consultations on Thursday, the 26th, at 10 a.m., Inner City Press reports, so at least something appears to be happening. But really, so much more could have been done since the resolution’s passage last September.
Clinton says the United States will do all it can to work with the United Nations to "create a safe environment for women, girls, and all civilians" in eastern Congo. Let’s hope she and the State Department will continue to press the U.N. on this serious issue.
Clinton’s complete statement:
The United States is deeply concerned by reports of the mass rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – an armed, illegal rebel group that has terrorized eastern Congo for over a decade – and elements of the Mai Mai, community-based militia groups in eastern Congo. This horrific attack is yet another example of how sexual violence undermines efforts to achieve and maintain stability in areas torn by conflict but striving for peace.
The United States has repeatedly condemned the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict zones around the world, and we will continue to speak out on this issue for those who cannot speak for themselves. Less than a year ago, I presided over the UN Security Council session where Resolution 1888 (2009) was unanimously adopted, underscoring the importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians. Now the international community must build on this action with specific steps to protect local populations against sexual and gender-based violence and bring to justice those who commit such atrocities.
Sexual violence harms more than its immediate victims. It denies and destroys our common dignity, it shreds the fabric that weaves us together as humans, it endangers families and communities, it erodes social and political stability, and it undermines economic progress. These travesties, committed with impunity against innocent civilians who play no role in armed conflict, hold us all back.
When I visited the DRC last year, I learned an old proverb — "No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come." In the depths of this dark night of suffering and pain, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. The United States will do everything we can to work with the UN and the DRC government to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable, and to create a safe environment for women, girls, and all civilians living in the eastern Congo.