In the brutal conflict in the DRC‚ a glimmer of hope for survivors

“I was at home when armed men came in and killed my husband. They decapitated him and stole all our possessions‚” Congolese mother Mamie says‚ the trauma still clear as she recounts a brutal attack.

As if this wasn’t enough‚ the horrific situation‚ unimaginably‚ got worse.

“I was raped in my home‚ next to my husband’s body‚ in the presence of my children.”

Mamie – whose real identity is being protected – was recounting her story to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Kananga‚ the capital of the Kasai Central province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo‚ in September. MSF runs an operation in the area‚ helping victims of sexual violence with medicinal and psychological care.

In Kananga‚ the levels of violence are staggering.

Between May 2017 and September 2018‚ MSF said it had treated about 2‚600 victims of sexual violence – 80% who reported having been raised by armed men. Thirty-two were men‚ some who reported having been forced under armed threat to rape members of their own community‚ of which 162 were children under the age of 15‚ including 22 under the age of five.

“These figures are an indication of the high level of violence that has persisted throughout the past year‚” said Karel Janssens‚ MSF head of mission in DRC. “The shocking testimonies from survivors that we have heard on a daily basis describe how people’s lives and communities have been torn apart‚ making it very difficult for them to rebuild and move forward.”

Mamie is just one of the victims – and her story one that is‚ scarily‚ echoed among those who were willing to go public with their ordeals.

“It was last year‚ during the violence‚” Mamie continued. “I had five children. They killed three of them. They raped my three oldest girls before killing them. I was left with the two youngest – a 12-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl.”

The three survivors were forced to flee.

“I started walking with my two children through the bush to Tshikapa. I didn’t know where we were going‚ I just started walking. After we got to Tshikapa‚ my children got sick. We were taken in by an organisation that helped us and gave us a little money.

“I decided to return to Kananga‚ where I used to live‚ together with some other women. We took the road hoping to catch a ride with trucks that pass on their way to the city. While on the road‚ before we got to Kananga‚ we were confronted by armed men. Again‚ they raped us. There were three of them‚” she said.

Eventually she found out about the MSF hospital‚ and began receiving treatment. And then she found out about another horrific consequence of her brutal sexual assaults.

“When I got here at the hospital‚ I was given medication and examined by a doctor. That’s how I found out I had HIV. This worries me a lot‚ because I fear I don’t have long to live.”

Another victim‚ identified only as Pitshou‚ recounted how he – and other men in the village were forced to go on a sexual assault spree.

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