suvivors

UP CLOSE: SURVIVORS OF WAR RAPE

IN DR CONGO

Interviews by Mugisho Theophile and Bahati Valérie, co-founders of COFAPRI

Safe World correspondant Mugisho and his wife Bahati are from the DR Congo but living in nearby Rwanda.

Due to the violence in their homeland they decided to move to Rwanda but could not ignore the suffering they had left behind.

Together they started COFAPRI, a self-funded support organisation for women victims in the villages of DR Congo.

While Mugisho works as a university lecturer, Bahati devotes a large part of her time travelling across the border to assist the women there.

Some of the women (and men) shared their harrowing stories ...

NICOLAS'S STORY

This is what happened to Bwalikwa Nicolas, 21 years old, who was forced to rape his older sister:

My mother had recently died and the father had been taken to unknown destiny.

They met me and my sister in the field harvesting maize when they ·forced us to do the undoable thing.

I always wonder if these people were created by God or by Satan.

God forgive them; I think they do not know what they told me to do - he looked at me and shed tears - well, they told me gun at head to sleep with my...my... sister.

They said if I refused they would kill me and rape her themselves and then kill her.

I looked at her, she cried.

They shouted ‘if not, ok, do quickly now’.

My sister told me to do it to save our lives.

It was not that easy.

They finally took her, made her lie and took off my clothes and forced me to....to sin...”

PATIENCE'S STORY

Mawazo Patience, 32 years old, was raped three times in a two month period:

They raped me when I was coming from fetching water.

We normally get  water far from home, some 4 Km. We went to the river during the day with the girls of my neighbours.

After we had got water, we went back home immediately as the ‘days were not good’.

In the midway, we met them sitting on both sides of the path. We could not pass in the middle following our culture.

We kindly asked them if they could give us the way. They responded us telling us to put down the calabashes we were carrying on the head and go to kiss them.

We hesitated but as I was the oldest they took hold of me and ‘they did me shame’. My neighbours’ daughters who were  younger than me were safe.

The next time, other rapists met me and raped me at home when I was cooking food for my husband.

It was around 4pm, they entered the house in which I was cooking and two of them entered where my husband was and wrapped his mouth and the eyes with two different bandages.

They told me that they did not need food but that they needed me. My heart beat quickly and I was shivering.

One of them jumped on me and he did.......(she sighs),

when he finished he told the other in a language I could not hear. He also entered me and blood started to  come out.

I lost control and I could not know when they left. When my husband came to see me I could not know, he himself took me to the nearest dispensary on his back, at almost 15 Km; I was bleeding on his back.

Five people in uniform jumped on me

The third time I was raped, it was at the river when I had gone to the field to cultivate. After cultivating, I went to bathe in the river; as I was bathing, five people in uniform and arms jumped on me, held me and made me fall down. Immediately they opened my legs and......

Sorry, I feel shocked, I cannot continue the story.”

CHANTAL'S STORY

Nzigire Chantal, 18 years old, a girl who was raped in the eyes of her parents and brothers revealed the following:

It was night when we went to the bush to hide from the rapists.

When we were cooking something to eat, twelve armed men appeared randomly at our place. They asked us if we wanted to live.

We could not guess what they meant and we responded ‘yes’. We were two girls; they told us ‘now take off your clothes and sleep with us’.

My sister who tried to respond to them was shot on the leg and fell down. We could not cry, not even assist her because the rapists told us to keep quiet and that if we made noise they could shoot us all.

They tied my sister on a tree that had been cut down with the two legs separate.

All of them took turn on her, they started to do their evils in the eyes of our parents and brothers and when they finished they went. I could not walk, not even speak but a lot of pain and trauma.

The following morning, we sought some grass as medicine to give to our sister who was shot and we left the place to another hideout.

Now I am HIV positive and I got pregnancy from those evil doers.

The child has no father and when I look at him, I feel remorse.”

COFAPRI is registered in Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Rupublic of Congo.

The organisation operates in rural regions of South Kivu and empowers women through encouraging income-generating activities such as sewing and knitting projects, and the rearing of livestock.

COFAPRI also sponsors the education of children and provides them with school equipment.

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