It’s a chilling afternoon at Virunga park, located in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. While fetching firewood in this forest, 5 women were beaten and then sexually assaulted by unknown rangers on September 19, 2018. Four are still missing till date. The fifth woman who survived the ordeal tells the story.
“Arriving in the Park, I met some rangers, they were dressed in green military uniform and they spoke Lingala. In the park, there were other women. The forest guards lay me on the ground, they beat me. They took turns to rape me one after the other. I could not see where they took the other women.
“I spent the night there, I had no strength left. During this time at home my children alerted people who came to pick me up. They took me to the hospital, but the drugs they gave me did little to help,” said the victim.
Many DRC women have been victims of sexual abuse during conflicts in parts of the country according to recent reports and statistics. Authorities have not been able to apprehend some of these perpetrators as victims are usually unable to identify them.
“We met this woman in critical condition. She uses sticks to walk. We put her on the stretcher and then took her to the hospital for first aid. Depending on how we conducted investigations, it turned out that they were rangers.
“Insecurity is being caused by FARDC. Recently, commandos looted and committed a lot of abuses in this Mugunga neighborhood,” said Obedy Bahati, president of the Mugunga civil society.
“I do respond to calls relating to these allegations of rape and I gave an official position on Virunga National Park, when there are allegations of rape against our workforce we ask that we be provided the facts.
“We are an institution respectful of human rights, we are the authority in this state. When we learnt this, our security department deployed a protocol for the protection of civilians. The investigations are in progress,” said Joël Wengamulayi director of communication and political relations at ICCN in North Kivu.
A report indicates that in 2011, 48 women were raped every hour and more than 1,000 each day. It was not just the women but there are men too who were sexually molested.