The U.N. fails to protect women in the Congo

Doug Kulungu (BA ’10) is concerned about his homeland. The Congo has been in the grip of civil war for more than 15 years. Not just soldiers suffer in this war; women are victimized by rape as a weapon of terror.Doug brings this horror to life in this edition of Scholars Speak.

To some they are victims of war, to others they are women that were raped, but to me they are sisters, mothers and cousins that suffered prejudice. After 15 long years in the war of liberation in Congo, millions are paying the cost with their own lives. Women are being exposed to an unbearably long and harmful carnage, whether they live in the area controlled by government armed forces or the militias.

The United Nations recently published a report that accuses both sides of systematically raping and abusing women. There are heartbreaking stories of young women who were found giving birth in a hospital as a consequence of being raped, some of whom were released and raped again.

In an area controlled by U.N. peacekeepers, violence such as this should not be tolerated by the world. Around 20,000 UN peacekeepers are stationed in Eastern Congo in the Kivu province. The rape of more than 150 women last September happened 20 miles away from the UN base.

This has raised a lot of red flags and even questions about the effectiveness of the U.N. forces. U.N. peacekeepers in Congo have a budget of roughly $1.4 billion, and the equipment to control and protect the people. However, there can be no progress without action. The Kivu area is much larger than the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the infrastructure, in terms of roads and communications, is pitiful. In fact, the U.N. used the lack of communication as an excuse for not preventing the rape.


One should question the accuracy of this reason. Can an entity with a budget of billions of dollars use lack of communication as a defense for not protecting civilians? Technology has given millions in the world, even in rural areas, the chance to use cell phones. Shouldn’t the U.N. know better? The Human Rights Watch said the U.N. might be at risk in becoming complicit in slaughter against civilians in Congo.

Government forces have been mentioned in the U.N. report documenting the September rape, which is ludicrous. I do acknowledge some inconsistencies from the top leaders in the Congolese army, but I am certain that soldiers are acting on their own will. No government would send soldiers to rape or kill civilians. Congolese people, however, accused government leaders of not keeping soldiers accountable. Lack of justice in my country has encouraged a lot of prohibited activities. Populations are targeted by armed forces, either militia or government agents. It is important to note that a Congolese warrior is paid less than $10 per month, so they aim to take anything from civilians to fulfill their unlimited needs.

The U.N. was created in 1945 with the purpose of preventing wars and promoting peace. In 1948 the General Assembly adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all members. As a patriotic citizen of Congo, I doubt the equal application of this declaration to all the parties. The world has witnessed the outstanding effort of the international community, with U.S. leadership, in the Palestinian and the Israeli peace talks. Even though it was unsuccessful, we do salute the political will.

Wouldn’t Congo hope for the same attention to its villainous situation? More than 6 million have died, 300,000 women have been raped and Congolese still live in horrifying conditions. In a country that is known for its great potential in raw materials, one would least expect it to be undergoing any type of difficulty. It is well recognized that the war in Congo is because of business interests; are these profits worth the cost of human life?

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