Congo: Rape as a Weapon of War
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:17 PM

Francois Grignon, director of the Africa Program of the International Crisis Group, recently wrote an article addressing the use of rape as a weapon of war in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Grignon reports that Congolese hospitals are overrun with women who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of warring parties in that region.

Rape is used as a weapon of war by most of the parties involved in the conflict in eastern Congo. Rape has also become common in civilian society as a means of demonstrating power over a victim.  The military and other authorities are either unwilling or unable to prosecute and prevent these crimes. 

International organizations have recognized the problem described by Grignon.  Doctors Without Borders reported that 75% of all rapes they treated worldwide were in the eastern Congo.  UNICEF reported that 18,505 people in the region were treated for sexual violence in the first 10 months of 2008, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that number increased dramatically in the subsequent months. As significant as these numbers are, Grignon pointed out that the statistics represent only a fraction of all incidents of sexual violence as a majority of cases are not reported due to fear of retribution and the social stigma faced by victims. 

Grignon made recommendations to promote the eradication of rape as a weapon of war in the eastern Congo. Grignon believes the International Criminal Court should issue warrants for the arrest of any senior commander in the Congolese military who has used rape as a weapon.  Grignon also believes Congolese authorities should engage the military in a training and education program and evacuate women and children from areas of risk.  Finally, Grignon calls on western donor nations to apply pressure on Congolese officials by holding them accountable for using sexual violence as a weapon of war. 

Compiled from: François Grignon, "Rape as a Weapon of War in Congo," Spiegel International (11 June 2009).