A woman sits in a tent in a camp for the internally displaced after she was allegedly raped. AFP/GETTY IMAGES
During four terrible days in July and August, armed groups raped more than 300 women, girls, men and boys in the Walikale territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The perpetrators moved through 13 villages, looting, raping and abducting the local population. The rapes were planned and organized: victims were rounded up and prevented from fleeing before being raped by armed men acting under the orders of their commanding officers.
Even though United Nations peacekeepers were stationed nearby, they failed to protect these communities.
What happened in Walikale demonstrates the utter failure of both the DRC government and the United Nations to protect civilians from violence.
We can do something about this. In just two weeks, the United States will assume the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of December– giving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the opportunity to demand strong measures to protect civilians in the DRC from sexual violence.
We need you to let Secretary Clinton know that concerned citizens want the U.S. to take a strong stand in the Council to fully protect civilians in the DRC.
The suffering endured by the survivors in Walikale is, tragically, only one example of what the Congolese people have to endure. Sexual violence in the DRC has sometimes been referred to as “the war within the war”.
Last year alone, 15,000 cases of rape were reported. The actual figure is likely much higher, as many survivors do not report rape out of fear of being stigmatized within their communities.
Secretary Clinton has witnessed first-hand the extent of sexual violence in the DRC. In September 2009, following her mission to the DRC, she told the UN Security Council that “it is time for us…to go beyond condemning this behavior, to taking concrete steps to end it.”
She also pushed the Council to adopt the concrete measures necessary to bring perpetrators of this violence to justice.
Now that the United States has another opportunity to lead the UN Security Council in taking action to protect civilians in the DRC, we can’t afford to sit quietly!