Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton – What I Saw in Goma

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
August 24, 2009
Secretary Clinton at Mugunga Internally Displaced Person Camp in Goma

Interactive Travel Map | Text the Secretary | Behind the Scenes PhotosIn the following op-ed for People.com, Secretary Clinton shares about her visit to Goma and discusses how the U.S. is responding to sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 11 days of travel across Africa, I saw humanity at its worst – and at its best. In Goma last week, I saw both.

The Mugunga Internally Displaced Persons Camp sits in a land of volcanoes and great lakes on the edge of Goma, a provincial capital in the eastern Congo. The camp is now home to 18,000 people seeking refuge from a cycle of violent conflict that has left 5.4 million dead since 1998. Chased from their homes and villages by armed rebels and informal militias, these men, women and children walked for miles with little food or water until they reached this relatively safe haven.

Now they live in tents, one next to the other, row after row, some clinging to life, others hanging on to whatever glimmer of hope remains in a region plagued by years of brutality. Many of these people have been robbed of their homes, possessions, families and, worst of all, their dignity.

Women and girls in particular have been victimized on an unimaginable scale, as sexual and gender-based violence has become a tactic of war and has reached epidemic proportions. Some 1,100 rapes are reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.

I visited a hospital run by the organization Heal Africa and met a woman who told me that she was eight months' pregnant when she was attacked. She was at home when a group of men broke in. They took her husband and two of their children and shot them in the front yard, before returning into the house to shoot her other two children. Then they beat and gang-raped her and left her for dead. But she wasn't dead. She fought for life and her neighbors managed to get her to the hospital – 85 kilometers away.

I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity.

These acts don't just harm a single individual, or a single family, or village, or group. They shred the fabric that weaves us together as human beings. Such atrocities have no place in any society. This truly is humanity at its worst.

But there is reason to hope. We have seen survivors summon the courage to rebuild their lives and their communities. We have seen civic leaders and organizations come together to combat this appalling scourge. And we have seen health care workers sacrifice comfortable careers so they can treat the wounded.

In Goma, I met doctors and advocates who work every day to repair the broken bodies and spirits of women who have been raped, often by gangs, and often in such brutal fashion that they can no longer bear children, or walk or work. Caregivers like Lyn Lusi, who founded Heal Africa in Goma, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, who founded the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, represent humanity at its best.

The United States will stand with these brave people. This week I announced more than $17 million in new funding to prevent and respond to gender and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We will provide medical care, counseling, economic assistance and legal support. We will dedicate nearly $3 million to recruit and train police officers to protect women and girls and to investigate sexual violence. We will send technology experts to help women and front-line workers report abuse using photographs and video and share information on treatment and legal options. And we will deploy a team of civilian experts, medical personnel and military engineers to assess how we can further assist survivors of sexual violence.

While I was in the DRC, I had very frank discussions about sexual violence with President Kabila. I stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes, no matter who they are, must be prosecuted and punished. This is particularly important when they are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military, who have been allowed to commit these crimes with impunity.

Our commitment to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence did not begin with my visit to Goma, and it will not end with my departure.

We are redoubling our efforts to address the fundamental cause of this violence: the fighting that goes on and on in the eastern Congo. We will be taking additional steps at the United Nations and in concert with other nations to bring an end to this conflict.

There is an old Congolese proverb that says, "No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come." The day must come when the women of the eastern Congo can walk freely again, to tend their fields, play with their children and collect firewood and water without fear. They live in a region of unrivaled natural beauty and rich resources. They are strong and resilient. They could, if given the opportunity, drive economic and social progress that would make their country both peaceful and prosperous.

Working together, we will banish sexual violence into the dark past, where it belongs, and help the Congolese people seize the opportunities of a new day.

Comments

Comments

David
|
Texas, USA
August 24, 2009

David in Texas writes:

The narrative of this visit to Goma was distressing. The violence in Africa must be addressed. We are proud and pleased with Secretary Clinton as she went straight to the heart of the matter and demanded that the civil rights and dignity of each person be the priority of African governments.

Pamela
|
Georgia, USA
August 24, 2009

Pamela in Georgia writes:

Thank you Secretary Clinton, for focusing the world's attention on this enduring scourge of rape as a weapon of war. I particularly appreciate your attention to the link between economics and rape -- i.e. that we have to know more about mining in the region and its links to the army and militias' use of sexual violence.

Sanctions on companies doing business with militia (whose leaders make literally millions) and the DRC government might well be a strategy to pursue.

Barbara
|
District Of Columbia, USA
August 24, 2009

Barbara in Washington, DC writes:

I am proud that Hillary Clinton is highlighting the unspeakable conditions for women in Africa. I appreciate her commitment to this subject, both in Africa and around the world. I hope that no one can dissuade Secretary of State Clinton from showing through words and actions that the United States supports changes that make the conditions for women more humane and their chances for living fulfilled lives more possible

Dorothy S.
|
Florida, USA
August 24, 2009

Dorothy S. in Florida writes:

This is certainly a valuable campaign. I am very glad to see this policy undertaken under the auspices of the State Department of the United States. It is certainly a forward-looking and much needed benefit for all humankind.

Debby
|
Pennsylvania, USA
August 24, 2009

Debby in Pennsylvania writes:

Every woman throughout the world should support Secretary Clinton's efforts on behalf of African women who have been brutalized, enslaved, murdered, and abused for centuries. Those of us in America should not forget our sisters here who also are subjected to the same unacceptable conditions. Despite the fact American women live in the most powerful nation in the world, many still experience similar horrors at the hands of significant others, cults, parents, offspring, and a system that oftentimes ignores or downplays crimes against women in our own country. We must not forget for one moment when one woman suffers, we all suffer. As the mother of two daughters and grandmother to three granddaughters, I would like to see $3 million more allocated for programs to benefit women in my country - in particular a substantial chunk for communities in my state for those who most need help now.

palgye
|
South Korea
August 25, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Dear to ...

(very simple thought of about Africa)

To subject does not hit, about Africa about assistance method secret intention thought

The northern part, the central part, divides in the southern part area, the southern part the Republic of South Africa the central part supports Republic of Kenya importantly using a method will not be and efficient intelligence?

support, the nation of all Africa all at once, sees that there is a limit. Thinks each area presenting one standard one method. Chief of schedule area (?) Does making a duty do? and..

The northern part area does not decide the specific nation and instead of the single step from the work which prevents a drought to do, comes out, thinks, "eu" schedule partial responsibility does making come one method.

sorry, One will be able to solve one by one thinks about all problems that.

sorry...

palgye
|
South Korea
August 25, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Dear to ..

like a Nigeria

With Federation of Nigeria the country where the same underground resources is abundant, the place where the many international speculative capital conspires with a corruption influence is many, the intervention at the time of which is direct the counter result is number of days rather,Them and agreement or there is a possibility must conspire the right thinks also the union which is internal that the method which is indirect is right

thinking of Nigeria, from stupid

Janelle
|
Vermont, USA
August 26, 2009

Janelle in Vermont writes:

Thank you so much Secretary Clinton and U.S. State Department for emphatically addressing such an important issue. We know that sexual violence is about power and control. That those in military authority would seek to augment their power through this form of oppression of women and girls is appalling. We can hope that the Congolese can find a way to make such crimes culturally abhorrent.

Sandra
|
Texas, USA
August 26, 2009

Sandra in Texas writes:

Well, I didn't expect anything less from Secretary Hillary Clinton. Thank you for your perseverance in making change happen for those less fortunate...the minority population. All it takes is awareness for change to happen and get the momentum going in ending these types of crimes against mankind.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 27, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

It may be too soon to guage the effect of the Secretary's logic and words of concern upon the leaders of nations she visited, but at least in Nigeria's case, they took rather strong action within their banking sector to address corruption, and the amnesty deal offered to rebels has met with some success with the main rebel group leader quoted as saying that "it is time to give peace a chance" and turning in his group's weaponry.

Whether this is in part as a result of a little "motivational support" from the Secretary or not, I can see some progress from where I sit.

Folks are starting to get serious about reform and good governance.

On an unrelated domestic note:

My condolences to Sen. Ted Kennedy's family on their loss.

If a health care bill gets passed this year, I hope Congress puts his name on it. It would seem only fitting tribute to the man for the last bit of legistlation he worked on, and don't be suprised if his presence is felt as the vote is called.

Jan
|
Tennessee, USA
August 27, 2009

Jan in Tennessee writes:

Dear Mrs. Clinton: May God bless you for all that you have done and continue to do. I grew up an Army brat and their is no place like America. Many people suffer immeasurable hardships beginning from birth. I pray the relief day comes soon. I hope that President Kabila stands up for his citizens and rights all of the wrongs. I am so proud of you representing America and helping these unfortunate people. How your heart must have ached as mine did reading your words.

Thank you so much.

feini k.
|
Côte d'Ivoire
August 31, 2009

Feini in Cote d'Ivoire writes:

Violence in CONGO is preocupation some of countries and singulary UNITED STATES . TOday government of UNITED STATES of AMERICA and the president BARACK BAMA solve than other problems of this . I know that helps and messages delivered is to water and find solutions .I invite CONGO people to grow peace together. I also know togeher we win

NGONGO M.
|
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
September 1, 2009

Ngongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo writes:

Inoncent people in the DR Congo are victims of theaves who are killing, violating and displacing them to still mines, timbers.. They have interest to keep the country in trouble in order to operate freely. Up to know the different effort deployed to end the violences are not enough because of the support these criminals have from abroad. The enter the DR Congo from Rwanda and Kampala, countries whose presidents are operating with these criminals in order to stay longer in power. To end up the violences in the easthern part of The DR Congo these two countries have to democratise their political systems and autorise the multiparty activities. Otherwise they will never be durable peace in the easthern part of The DR Congo.

.

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