All parties to the conflict must pay greater attention to this problem of rape. Given the frequency of sexual attacks, rape has become commonplace. The individuals responsible act with impunity and are rarely punished. At the same time, very few victims file charges because they are afraid of reprisals.
MSF in Tari provides medical and psychological help for persons who have survived rape. Rape is a crime that affects many aspects of human life; it is a medical emergency, it is a psychological trauma and it has deep consequences on both family and societal level.
We are extremely concerned about the fate of civilians in this area—normal people who have nothing to do with the conflict and who bear the brunt of a recent increase in violence and insecurity in this part of eastern DRC.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided specialized care to 53 women, men, and children who were raped in a series of incidents that occurred between January 19 and 21 in South Kivu Province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Most of the rape survivors MSF treated yesterday said they were ambushed on January 19 around the village of Nakatete, as they returned from market. They told MSF they had been held hostage throughout the day, raped multiple times, and subjected to further degrading treatment. Patients ranged in age from 13 to 60. Women and girls had been separated from men and their clothes and belongings were stolen.
These new incidents of large scale rape come a few weeks after a mass rape on New Year’s Day in the Fizi region of South Kivu.
For years, civilians in eastern DRC have suffered sexual violence related to ongoing conflict. But MSF has not provided medical treatment for rape on this scale in South Kivu since 2004. In an already volatile context, MSF is witnessing a further deterioration of the situation, which is directly impacting the civilian population.