Brutality continues against women and children in Congo

by Alexa Gagosz

Imagine being packed in group of more than 600 children squeezed together, or being forced into a marriage as a teenager with a man that had raped one of your friends or family members. Imagine being shoved into a hole in the dirt where insects and snakes have the ability to crawl or being forced to stay there and only taken out to be used as a sex slave. This is reality for many women and children throughout the DR Congo, according to Vice News.

Since January, the National Army of Congo has launched an offensive against the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group, according to BBC. The ADF is killing civilians with machetes, more than 600 women have been kidnapped and taken into camps deep into forests, according to reports by Vice News. One 16-year-old girl escaped two weeks ago and told Vice she was held hostage for a year, where she was forced to convert to Islam and marry one of the rebels. She said to Vice News that there were several hundred girls, and also many children being held. She told reporters that girls as young as 8 years old were being held.

By Flickr user Steve Evans

Another girl that was interviewed by Vice News just escaped the forest after two years of being held where she was repeatedly raped. She is only 12 years old. One woman told Vice reporters that some of the older women were kept in a hole and only taken out to be used for sex.

The ADF has been hiding out in the northeast Congo for years, consisting of Islamists with the goal of gaining control over the entire country of Uganda, according to a former ADF rebel from reports by Vice News. With little known about the group itself, the leader is also unheard of and is said to be 68-year-old Jamil Mukulu, originally from Uganda.

Throughout the Oicha region, both priests and doctors are being forced to convert to Islam, and if they refuse they are beheaded. Captured ADF fighters told Vice News reporters that they kill the men and resist them, but “women and children are easier to manipulate,” said one captured rebel that had been fighting for the group for the past five years, since he was 14.

According to The New York Times, rebels had crept into homes and attacked civilians in the eastern town of Beni, the mayor, Nyonyi Bwana, Kawa said to reporters Thursday. Thirty people are reported to be dead in Beni, but similar attacks have occurred throughout the towns surrounding Beni in the past few weeks.

On Saturday, the village of Eringeti was attacked, where another 20 people were killed, mostly women and children, according to BBC News. One of the local pastors told BBC victims were killed with machetes, guns, and axes; as the UN mission in the DR Congo is being widely criticized for failing to protect the civilians.

Just last week in northeast Congo, ADF raided a village and killed nine people and kidnapped 47 women and children, according to The Associated Press.

According to BBC News, at least 70 people have been killed in eastern Congo, “accompanied by rape, torture and mutilations,” a UN official told reporters after peace treaties to end the violence from last year have failed. An official stated that as a result, several thousand civilians have fled their homes in fear.