Violated, Too: Congo's Male Rape Victims

For years, the thickly forested hills and clear, deep lakes of eastern Congo have been a reservoir of atrocities. Now, it seems, there is another growing problem: men raping men...

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Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

From the NY Times:

GOMA, Congo — It was around 11 p.m. when armed men burst into Kazungu Ziwa’s hut, put a machete to his throat and yanked down his pants. Mr. Ziwa is a tiny man, about four feet, six inches tall. He tried to fight back, but said he was quickly beaten down.

“Then they raped me,” he said. “It was horrible, physically. I was dizzy. My thoughts just left me.”

For years, the thickly forested hills and clear, deep lakes of eastern Congo have been a reservoir of atrocities. Now, it seems, there is another growing problem: men raping men.

According to Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, United Nations officials and several Congolese aid organizations, the number of men who have been raped has risen sharply in recent months, a consequence of joint Congo-Rwanda military operations against rebels that have uncapped an appalling level of violence against civilians.

Aid workers struggle to explain the sudden spike in male rape cases. The best answer, they say, is that the sexual violence against men is yet another way for armed groups to humiliate and demoralize Congolese communities into submission.

The United Nations already considers eastern Congo the rape capital of the world, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to hear from survivors on her visit to the country next week. Hundreds of thousands of women have been sexually assaulted by the various warring militias haunting these hills, and right now this area is going through one of its bloodiest periods in years.

The joint military operations that began in January between Rwanda and Congo, David and Goliath neighbors who were recently bitter enemies, were supposed to end the murderous rebel problem along the border and usher in a new epoch of cooperation and peace. Hopes soared after the quick capture of a renegade general who had routed government troops and threatened to march across the country.

But aid organizations say that the military maneuvers have provoked horrific revenge attacks, with more than 500,000 people driven from their homes, dozens of villages burned and hundreds of villagers massacred, including toddlers thrown into open fires.

And it is not just the rebels being blamed. According to human rights groups, soldiers from the Congolese Army are executing civilians, raping women and conscripting villagers to lug their food, ammunition and gear into the jungle. It is often a death march through one of Africa’s lushest, most stunning tropical landscapes, which has also been the scene of a devastatingly complicated war for more than a decade.

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