On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with vast natural resources that for years has been plagued by civil war and sexual violence.
Clinton visited a clinic and a large refugee camp in the eastern town of Goma, where she pledged $17 million to deal with sexual abuse.
Severinne Autesserre, an assistant professor of political science at Barnard College, joins Martin Savidge to discuss the conflict in Congo and how the country’s government and people will respond to Clinton’s message.
Read what a Worldfocus contributing blogger had to say about Clinton’s mission: Clinton must call for an end to Congo’s media censorship
A blogger at “Texas in Africa” writes an open letter to Hillary Clinton:
I think it’s great that you’re headed [to Goma]. You have to get out of Kinshasa to understand the country and its governance problems, and you will not understand the conflict in full — or how pitiful and inadequate the international response to it is — without going to the east and meeting some of the victims. […] You will meet little girls who’ve been gang raped by soldiers and who can no longer talk or feed themselves. You’ll see mothers and their children who live in a kind of poverty that does not compare with what you see in Kenya or South Africa or Ghana or any of the places you’ve previously visited on the continent.
Remind yourself that this is the norm in eastern Congo. […] You will not be the same after hearing their stories. But the people of the Congo don’t need you to see and be shocked by their situation. They need you to do something. They need you to go beyond the rhetoric. So I am begging you: please make this trip different.
Blogger “Marcel,” with Oxfam’s operations in Congo, gives Clinton some advice based on experience with rape victims:
This afternoon I’m supposed to be attending a meeting with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who flew into Congo last night.
She couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time. Rape is widespread here, and cases have increased dramatically in the past few months.
I remember a woman I met in the remote Lubero territory of North Kivu Province. She told me she witnessed a gang rape of another woman by three armed men. It is almost impossible to describe the scenes she told me, but she was so brutally raped that she later died of internal bleeding. The witness, the woman I talked to, fled the area in terror. So did thousands of other unnamed victims in the past few months.
[…] If Hillary Clinton asks me what she can do to reduce rape in eastern Congo, I will tell her first of all that the US government, and the rest of the international community, needs to urgently rethink its support for an offensive that has – according to UN figures – forced more than 800,000 people to flee their homes, and has resulted in rape cases spiralling out of control. The military option must not be the only strategy. It is always the civilians – the women, children and men of Eastern Congo – who pay the highest price for any military operation.
The “Wide Angle View” blog examines different approaches to combating rape:
I was encouraged to read about both the top-down and a bottom-up approaches underway in the area to address sexual violence, which I think are equally important for effective change. Having legal structures in place regarding all forms of sexual violence against women is vital for preventing aggressors from acting with impunity, and may provide some preventative dissuasion. And public services are essential for dealing with the aftermath. On the other hand, changing attitudes is a slower process, and immensely difficult, but it offers the only hope of clipping sexual violence in the early stages before it can grow and take root.
Doctors Without Borders shares a video of Congolese refugees in neighboring Sudan: