Reports of fresh fighting around Goma and attacks on women in theconflict zone have been sent to the Anglican Alliance, the Anglican Communion’s relief and development agency, from the church inthe Democratic Republic of Congo.
It has increased pressure on the project run by the Anglican churchin Goma, in the Diocese of Bukavu, to support women and girls rejectedby their families after being subjected to sexual assaults and rape – which is being used as a weapon of war.
The Anglican clergyman who is organising the programme, sent the following report of renewed fighting:
“Yesterday, Sunday afternoon after Church morning services, therewere lots of chaos, due to bombs that were booming around Goma. Themedia said that it was a fighting between M23 and DRC government army.
“This morning, the same bombs were being heard and this had led manypeople into fear. But at the moment, it is said that there were somecaptured rebels from M23 side by the national army. We really need yourprayers,” he said.
The project for women affected by sexual violence is outside the townin an insecure area. However, women are turning to the Church of helpduring the crisis, especially to reach medical services in the town. Financial support is being provided to the project via mobile phone cashtransfers.
More recent calls for help have come from Masisi, Minova and Rutshurutowns in the rural area. Rebel and soldiers rape women and girls asyoung as six years old, several men attacking the same woman and onrepeated occasions.
A devastating report producedby the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (MONUSCO – OHCHR) onthe human rights violations committed by the Congolese armed forces andcombatants of the M23 in the North and South Kivus Provinces, highlightsthe violations, including rape, which according to the report wascommitted in a “widespread manner”.
After going through such experiences, the women suffer manyother tragedies. Those who can afford to travel to Goma city to look forhelp in the church. They are severely traumatised and need to be testedfor HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. They are oftenabandoned by their husbands, usually facing their inflicted pregnancyalone. This has contributed to an under registration of rapes in thearea, as women are ashamed and too scared to report them.
Church leaders inform us that villages are looted and destroyed. Displaced communities live in makeshifts camps, mainly populated bywomen and children, with either none or very poor health facilities.Girls and women are also raped within the camps. If they become pregnantthey have to deliver their child in very bad conditions. Babiessuffocate in poor accommodation and are exposed to various diseases suchas pneumonia, malaria, cholera, fever etc.
MONUSCO also report how some M23 combatants last year attacked the Mugunga Campfor internally displaced people and raped at least eight women. In thecamp there is an Anglican church and school which are being used forshelter. Recent reports from NGOs working on the ground also indicatethat displaced communities living in Mugunga have been forced to fleeagain as they are caught in the crossfire near the camp.
The medical consequences for women are serious. Women can sufferdislocation of the hips, fistulas, paralysis and other disabilities.Women who are disabled cannot flee the villages and are more vulnerableto rape if their community is attacked.
The Anglican Church in Goma is implementing several programmes tosupport the women’s recovery. It also has a reconciliation initiativethat brings couples and families back together in these brokencommunities.
If you would like to know more about this appeal please contact the Anglican Communion Office via this email: [email protected]