Friday, November 9, 2012

Women Victims of Sexual Violence in DRC

Your Excellences, Mr. Ambassadors,

I would have liked to begin my speech with the usual formulation, “I have the honor and privilege of taking the floor before you.”

Alas! The women victims of sexual violence in Eastern DRC are in dishonor. I constantly with my own eyes see the elder women, the young girls, the mothers and even the babies dishonored.

Still today, many are subjected to sexual slavery; others are used as a weapon of war. Their organs are exposed to the most abhorrent ill-treatment. And this has been going on for 16 years! 16 years of wandering; 16 years of torture; 16 years of mutilation; 16 years of the destruction of women, the only vital Congolese resources; 16 years of destruction of an entire society. Certainly your respective countries have done much during this time to address the consequences of this barbarity. We are very grateful for that.

I would have liked to say “I have the honor of taking part in the international community that you represent here”. But I cannot.

How can I say this to you, representing the international community, when the international community has shown its fear and lack of courage during these 16 years in the DRC.
I would have liked to say, “I have the honor of representing my country”, but I cannot.

In effect, how can one be proud of belonging to a nation without defense, fighting itself, completely pillaged and powerless in the face of 500,000 of its girls raped during 16 years; 6,000,000 of its sons and daughters killed during 16 years without any lasting solution in sight.
No, I do not have the honor, nor the privilege to be here today. My heart is heavy.

My honor, it is to be with these courageous women victims of violence, these women who resist, these women who despite all remain standing.

Today, thanks to the report of the UN experts, the Mapping Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, and many other credible reports, no one can continue to hide behind the argument of the complexity of the crisis. We know now the motivations behind this crisis and its different actors. What is missing is the political will.

But until when? Until when must we continue, helpless, to witness other massacres?

Excellences, Mister Ambassadors ; it is with great humility that i tell you this.

We do not need more proof, we need action, urgent action to arrest those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to bring them to justice. Justice is not negotiable. We need your unanimous condemnation of the rebel groups who are responsible for these acts, we need concrete actions with regard to member states of the United Nations who support these barbarities from near or afar. We are facing a humanitarian emergency that no longer has room for tergiversation. All the ingredients are there to put an end to an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war. Congolese women have a right to protection just as all the women on this planet.

Shelving all these credible reports will harm the credibility of the various UN resolutions requiring the protection of women in times of conflict and will entirely discredit our dear institution, which is supposed to ensure the non-repetition of genocide.

The great principles of our civilization decline ; they decline through new barbarities, as in Syria or DRC ; but also through the deafening silence and the lack of courage of the international community.
We cannot silence the truth as it is persistent. We should rather confront it to avoid betraying our ideals.
I have the honor to say that the courage of women victims of sexual violence in the Eastern Congo will in the end overcome this evil. Help them restore peace!

Thank you.

Denis Mukwege
Medical Director

Panzi Hospital