Systematic Rape in Congo Reportedly Continues Despite Peace Agreements

Although there is a peace agreement in place and elections scheduled later this year to end the Democratic Republic of Congo’s seven year civil war, human rights activists who visit the DRC say that the systematic use of rape continues to be used by various forces involved.

At its heart, the DRC civil war has its root in an ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis that led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in less than 4 months.

In 1997, fearing Hutus were preparing to launch an attack from the DRC, the Tutsi-led government of Rwanda supported Laurent Kabila’s coup against DRC dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. When Kabila won and attempted to expel Rwandan military forces from the Congo, a civil war erupted that at one point included 9 other African nations.

Systematic rape has been a frequent tactic in the civil war. A 2004 Amnesty International report estimated that as many as 40,000 women had been raped by military and paramilitary forces from 1998-2004. The AI report said that sexual assault had been committed by forces on all sides of the conflict.

Human rights activists such as Eric Schiller returning from the DRC claim that although there is a peace in place, the rapes and violence have not abated. Schiller told the Canadian Press,

It [systematic rape] is very extensive, it is ongoing, it seems to have become a modus operandi.

This is hardly surprising giving AI’s report in late 2004 that the transitional government in place in the DRC was indifferent at best to the plight of the victims of sexual violence. According to AI’s report,

Insufficient resources and the fact that the country is still balanced between war and peace are often used as excuses by the government to justify its inaction on these issues. Questioned by Amnesty International on the government?s weak commitment on care for survivors of sexual violence, the deputy health minister claimed that this was due to the lack of resources and the complex configuration of the government. He clearly indicated that his ministry will limit its work to caring for victims if and when it is able to, and that the government “cannot establish a global policy on rape because rape is an isolated phenomenon and is not an epidemic or disease like cholera”(58).

If Schiller is correct, little appears to have changed in the year and a half since the release of the Amnesty International report.


Democratic Republic of Congo: Mass rape – time for remedies. Amnesty International, 2004.

Congo rape victims seek solace. Jackie Martens, BBC, January 24, 2004.

Report shows DR Congo rape horror. BBC, October 26, 2004.

Systematic rape in eastern Congo continues despite pleas for intervention. Dennis Bueckert, Canadian Press, March 5, 2006.

Kenyan Justice Minister Apologizes for Rape Remark

Kenyan Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi apologized in February for using rape as a metaphor for his criticism of aid donors concerned about corruption in that country.

Responding to criticism from donors about corruption in Kenyan, Murungi said that such criticism was “like raping a woman who is already willing.”

The statement brought swift condemnation and protests from women’s rights groups in Kenya. Miriam Kahiga of Amnesty International said of the comment,

It is trivializing rape and the fight against graft in one breath.

She also called Murungi, “an embarrassment to the country.”

Murungi later apologized saying,

I unreservedly and sincerely apologize to all the women of Kenya who were offended by these remarks.

Human rights groups in Kenya have faulted the government for the high incidence of rape and the poor response by police to prevent and investigate such crimes.


Kenyan apology over rape remark. The BBC, February 11, 2005.

It?s a big shame, ministers say of attack. Patrick Mathangani, East African Standard, August 17, 2004.

Sexual Politics. Press Release, Kenya Human Rights Commission, February 10, 2005.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko Denies Rwandan Genocide Charges

Lawyers for Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the first woman to be charged with genocide by the international tribune prosecuting those alleged to have participated in the Rwandan genocide, maintained their clients innocence as the defense began its part of the trial.

Nyiramasuhuko and her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, are accused of organizing and inciting troops in the Rwandan town of Butare to carry out genocide. According to the prosecution, Butare was a town in which Hutu-Tutsi relations were generally good before the genocide, so the government sent Nyiramasuhuko and her son to the town to ensure that soldiers their followed through on the genocide plan.

Witnesses have testified at her trial that she instructed soldiers to rape the best looking Tutsi women before killing them. Ntahobali is accused of participating in the raping and killing of Tutsi women.


Rwandan denies genocide charges. The BBC, January 31, 2005.

Judge Rules Kobe Bryant’s Lawyers Can Use Some Information about Accuser’s Sexual History

The judge in the Kobe Bryant case ruled in that some limited information about his accuser’s sexual history would be admissible at trial.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle ruled that details about the woman’s sexual activities in the three days before her July 1, 2003 rape examination are relevant to the case and would be admissible. Bryant’s defense team is apparently going to argue that injuries found during that rape exam could have come from other sexual acts the woman engaged in immediately prior to the July 1 exam. They also apparently will argue that it is not credible that the woman was raped by Bryant and then turned around and had sex with at least one and possibly a number of other individuals immediately afterward. There is also some suggestion that the woman’s sexual activities immediately after the alleged rape may contradict what the accuser told police.

A number of experts speculated that the case may yet fall apart with this ruling. Larry Pozner, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Associated Press,

This case is just going to have a massive accumulation of evidence that targets the credibility of the accuser. In most sexual assault cases the complaining witness is the strength of the case. In this one she’s the weakness of the case. This evidence is as damaging a set of facts as a prosecutor could ever have to contend with and one wonders if at long last the accuser will pull the plug on this case.

But as Southwestern University School of Law professor Bob Pugsley noted, the ruling was consistent with Colorado’s rape shield law and would likely survive any appeal by prosecutors,

We’re not talking about remote history, we’re not talking about anyone else other than the alleged victim’s own statements against Kobe and her own behavior, which can be scientifically documented through the DNA samples on the underwear that she wore to her examination.


Kobe Accuser’s sex life can be used in trial. Associated Press, July 23, 2004.

Men Accused of Raping Three Women in Revenge for Lower Caste Wedding

According to the BBC, tension and conflict arose in an Indian village earlier this year when a young woman from an upper-caste Yadav family eloped with a 19-year old man of the Dalit caste, which is the lowest in India’s bizarre caste system. So several dozen Yadav men did what any self-respecting upper-caste man would — they first paraded the young man’s mother and aunts through the village and then gang raped them.

Police have arrested eight people in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for their alleged involvement in the attack. Witnesses told police that about 30 men were involved altogether in the gang rape..

India’s caste system is abolished by law, but, as this incident underscores, it is still solidly entrenched in practice.


Men held over ‘caste gang-rape’. The BBC, July 10, 2004.

DNA Test Clears Colorado Athletes of Rapes

Almost as quickly as the multiple accusations of rape by University of Colorado athletes emerged, the set of charges appeared to crash and burn due to lack of evidence and, in some cases, positive evidence of innocence.

Following the school’s recruiting scandal, a woman came forward an accused two University of Colorado football players of raping her after she supposedly met them in a tavern in August 2002.

But both DNA tests excluded both football players as the rapist, and the attorney for one of the players said the police were racial profiling. According to attorney Nancy Holton, the woman did not remember anything about the identities of the men who raped her except for the fact that they were black.

In total, eight cases of alleged sexual assault were reported as a result of the recruiting scandal, and prosecutors have set all of them aside due to lack of evidence.


Woman reported she was raped in 2002. Associated Press, May 13, 2004.