UN prize winner from Congo laments world hypocrisy

Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who runs a hospital for abused women and children in eastern Congo, says the youngest rape victim he has treated was just three years old.

After being honored with a U.N. human rights prize in New York last month, Mukwege said the world should do more to end the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo that has killed and displaced millions of people over a decade.

“The crisis that is happening in Congo is treated with with unimaginable hypocrisy,” Mukwege told Reuters in an interview in French after the awards ceremony.

“Everyone knows. More than 5 million dead, and everybody knows. Reports say 50,000 to 60,000 women raped every year.”

Mukwege said the 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers were little more than observers and needed a much stronger mandate to act.

“I always wonder, where is the political will to change the situation? I think the political will does not exist.”

Mukwege runs the Panzi Hospital for rape victims in Bukavu, which treats 10 to 12 women and children a day. Before the new clashes, patients were coming in who had been raped a year or more ago, but now he is seeing a sharp rise in new cases.

“What happens to the children is even more brutal,” Mukwege said. “The youngest child I have treated is a child of three with the rectum and the vagina completely torn apart.”

Although Congo held successful elections in 2006 aimed at ending a decade of war and chaos, violence has simmered in much of the east, where chaotic rebel and army units roam, often looting and targeting civilians.

A U.N. report last month said government and rebel groups have committed serious human right abuses, including mass killings, rape and torture.

Mukwege said rape was used both as a weapon of war by individual soldiers and a “strategy of war” by groups determined to destroy communities and drive people from their land. “It is done with an element of spectacle, in public, in front of everyone — with humiliation,” Mukwege said.

Mukwege said the international community should address the root cause of the conflict, a struggle for natural resources.

“If the international community put pressure on the actors of the war in the Great Lakes region, it could stop immediately,” Mukwege said. “It’s not a civil war, it’s not an ideological war, it’s more an economic war.”

The United Nations has a 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUC, and has asked for an EU “bridging force” to reinforce it until 3,000 more U.N. troops and police arrive next year. EU ministers are split on how to respond.

Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch also honored at the U.N., said countries such as Britain, France and Germany were “running as fast as they can” to avoid sending troops.

“It’s time for them to stop finding excuses for doing nothing,” Roth told a news conference.

Full article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N10354374.htm

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