The Worries of Rural Women in the DRC
The women in the villages of the Democratic Republic of Congo have never forgotten the plights of massive and repeated waves of rapes, sexual violence, and gender based violence (GBV) that have been imposed since the advent of the liberation war in 1996. Rape, sexual abuse, and GBV have remained an indelible scar in their minds, hearts, and bodies. These atrocities have been the prolongation of harsh domestic traditions that are weighing on women and girls as the society is a strong paternalistic community. The women worry about their country’s political development as the government often rejects the people’s will.
In 1996, Dictator Mobutu was replaced by Laurent Desire Kabila, and from that time, war succeeded war. LDK proclaimed himself president upon reaching Kinshasa until January 16, 2001, when one of his bodyguards shot him dead. During his presidency, LDK affirmed that elections would not be possible for two years, arguing that he needed more time to restore social order in the country. By 1998, Kabila's former allies in Uganda and Rwanda turned against him and backed a new rebellion of the DRC, the second Congo War. This warfare was strongly supported by LDK’s new allies: Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. It was only in July 1999 that peace talks were organized. No victims of war rape or their representatives were invited to the talks despite being the most grievously injured victims.
When LDK was killed, his son Joseph Kabila Kabange was inaugurated as Congo’s president. First in 2006 and again in 2011, JKK was elected president in doubtful ballots. Ever since the DRC achieved independence from Belgium in 1960, the country has never been harmonious. In this line, JKK is not willing to relinquish his power peacefully. Clinging onto power without considering the people’s views is leading the country into a quagmire of horrendous consequences for human beings and for the environment. Political tensions have grown recently: opposing politicians have been arbitrarily arrested and others have been charged with false allegations.
While the DRC is a rich country with plentiful minerals, its people are among the poorest in the world. A recent delegation of JKK opponents traveled to Washington to urge the US to act against JKK for impeding democracy. They hoped that sanctions would influence JKK and members of his government to abide to the people’s wishes.
People are now fearing another violent showdown. Most of the DRC’s neighbor countries, such as Burundi and Rwanda, have successfully amended their constitutions to allow their presidents to remain in power by running for a third term. For JFK, changing the constitution has been too difficult. Instead, he plans to use political and physical force against his own people. The president called for national dialogue to seek peaceful ways of addressing the contention around elections. The government, however, declared that it was too late to organize elections. JKK’s opposition wanted him to be out of office once his current and second term expired on December 20, 2016.
This havoc culminated in demonstrations wherein due to the national police’s interventions, more than 50 people were killed. The demonstrators revenged by setting 17 policemen on fire in the clashes between them and the police in Kinshasa.
Millions of the people died from conflict, hunger, and disease as well as the total destruction of the county’s ecosystem, flora and fauna. Thousands and thousands of women and girls, no matter their age and status, were raped in dreadful contexts. All these devastations have been occurring despite the presence of nearly 20,000 UN peacekeepers in the country.
The people still remember that in January 2015, dozens of protesters were killed because they wanted to see a change in president. This situation has deteriorated since then into a new bloodbath. Warfare is good for the war lords but immoral and ruthless for the people. It is in this vein that women and girls in the villages are developing great fear. They have not forgotten the atrocities they experienced during the previous unending wars.
The women and girls in the villages of the DR Congo are persistently worried about the shameful and undignified political climate in the country.
Here is a statement of one woman who suffered rape in 2003:
“Our main fear is the possibility to experience again a pervasive bloodshed that will again target us women and our daughters. We also fear this might embrace the Great Lakes Region (GLR). If this stretches over the borders of our country, more countries will get involved again. We fear for us, our daughters and our husbands, and our environment.”
The worries of the rural women in the villages of the DR Congo are the ones all the people in country share. A leader holding onto power regardless of his people’s opinions and the constitution has declared an open war with his people. War never brings peace; all it brings is more war and bloodshed, making the DR Congo wars a cycle. The people need peace, for they are tired of hearing bullets from guns and hearing the cries of women and children being raped.