About the Author: Claudia E. Anyaso serves as Director of Public Diplomacy for the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs.
On December 2, the Bureau of African Affairs and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in collaboration with the Enough Project hosted a State Department showing of The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo– a powerful film about a disturbing subject. Because events in the film are so difficult for many to contemplate, I was reluctant to approve the film showing. In the end, however, I gave the go-ahead, because I decided the producer was right: as many people as possible should be made aware of the widespread sexual violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The rightness of the decision was borne out by the overwhelming response to the film and to the panel discussion with producer/director Lisa Jackson; Enough Project director John Norris; and Raise Hope for Congo campaign manager Candice Knezevic.
While much remains to be done to effectively address the humanitarian crisis and the endemic rape in eastern Congo, panel moderator Lou Mazel pointed out some of the things the U.S. government is doing to help. For example, in FY 2008 and the first seven weeks of FY 2009, the USG has provided $22 million in humanitarian assistance to the DRC, mostly for the conflict-affected populations of North and South Kivu provinces, where the continued fighting between the Congo’s military, rebels, and militia continues to result in widespread human rights abuses, including thousands of rapes each year, perpetrated by all sides with impunity. The U.S. continues to fund programs, including one based in North Kivu, that train judges and police in effective methods to investigate and prosecute gender-based violence and that enable survivors of gender-based violence to gain access to the judicial system. The USG is also supporting African involvement in finding a solution, including recent meetings in Nairobi, the SADC summit and appointment of former Nigerian President Obasanjo as the UN Special Envoy for the Congo. The USG is working closely with allies and the international community to resolve this crisis. We are very pleased with the UN Security Council vote in November to expand the peacekeeping mission in the Congo, MONUC, by approximately 3,000 UN peacekeeping soldiers and police. These additions will enable MONUC to better carry out its civilian protection mission and, we hope, open up humanitarian zones that will be free from fighting and where NGOs and governmental humanitarian agencies can serve the people, including the rape victims in the Congo.
Learn more about what activists are doing to help raise awareness, raise their voice, and raise the profile of the conflict and widespread sexual violence against women and girls in the Congo.