T.J. Kirkpatrick/AP
An unidentified Congolese resident crosses a bridge over the Kibali River in Dungu, Congo,
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009.

Journalists, Activists Continue Push for Change in the Congo

February 09, 2010 12:17 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
U.N. efforts and funding have not stopped the violence, particularly against women, prompting calls for reevaluation of the current approach. 

Kristof and Mukwege Speak Out

In a column for The New York Times, journalist Nicholas Kristof focuses on a young woman left mutilated by Hutu militia members. The story of Jeanne Mukuninwa, twice kidnapped and repeatedly raped, provides yet another horrific example of the ongoing violence in the Congo.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has treated Mukuninwa only to see her wounds reopened, tells Kristof “[t]here is no medical solution” to the Congo’s troubles. As Kristof explains, more humanitarian aid is not the answer, but rather “a much more vigorous international effort to end the war itself.” 

Organizations Creating Awareness and Change

Kristof’s relentless coverage of tragedy in the Congo is unmatched and often so disturbing that it’s difficult to read. His most recent piece is no different, and drew numerous reader comments, many of which are insightful and point to promising organizations.

The Enough Project
is working to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity by building “a permanent constituency” focused on these aims. The Enough Project takes a proactive, hands-on approach, conducting “intensive field research in countries plagued by genocide and crimes against humanity.” The results—practical policies and tools to empower citizens—could create change in several African nations, including the Congo and Sudan.

RAISE Hope for Congo campaign is part of the Enough Project. It “aims to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the protection and empowerment of Congolese women and girls.” The campaign is centered on “the 4 Ps: Peace, Protection, Punishment, and Prevention.”

Evan Vetter is a filmmaker from Wilmington, N.C., who started Congocast. The site features multiple podcasts that tell stories from the Congo, focusing on the work being done by two women, Robin Tabbiner and Wendy Merritt, who moved to the dangerous country to work with and on behalf of Congolese women. Vetter conducted interviews with Dr. Mukwege in episodes seven and eight.

Students Getting Involved

Breaking the Silence works to raise awareness of strife in the Congo, and helps college communities come together to do the same. College students can register to become an organizer for Breaking the Silence, and then be linked with speakers, films and other programs to host on campus during Congo Week.

Opinion & Analysis: What works?

In a column for student newspaper The Dartmouth, Cameron Nutt discusses the U.N.’s controversial $1.4 billion peacekeeping mission in the Congo, MONUC. “[I]t is becoming increasingly clear that throwing money at this frustratingly complex situation is doing little but exacerbating the conflict,” Nutt writes.

He calls for a “reevaluation” of the mission, and concludes with steps that could create change and end violence in the Congo, including teaming with The Enough Project, and endorsing “legislation barring corporations from purchasing conflict minerals from Congo.” In addition, Nutt writes, the U.N. must enforce "[s]tricter arms embargoes,” and the International Criminal Court must continue pursuing “indictments against war criminals.”

Lastly, Nutt suggests “a reintegration program” for ex-rebels who didn’t have a hand in the genocide of 1994. He proposes looking at Partners in Health, which has been successful in Rwanda, as a model for the program.

Background: Crisis in the Congo and Criticism of UN Involvement

In December 2009, Human Rights Watch released a detailed report documenting the killing of 1,400-plus Congolese civilians between January and September 2009. The killings occurred “during two successive Congolese army operations against a Rwandan Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).”

According to Friends of the Congo blog, the Human Rights Watch report assesses “joint operations between the Congolese military and the United Nations forces,” and is “critical” of the partnership. The report also recommends “that the United Nations end its support of the military operations.” 

Key Players: Dr. Denis Mukwege

Dr. Denis Mukwege refuses to look away from the Congo’s unspeakable horrors. Mukwege works with rape victims, some of whom are under 10 years old, and most of whom have been rejected by their families and villages. He says that “important people,” including the president of the DRC and many reporters, have visited him between surgeries, seen the hospital and met with traumatized women. Still, nothing has stopped the vicious fighting.

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