It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.
But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.
What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation, in ways that sear survivors like Jeanne Mukuninwa, a beautiful, cheerful young woman of 19 who somehow musters the courage to giggle. Her parents disappeared in the fighting when she had just turned 14 " perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up " so she moved in with her uncle.
A few months later, the extremist Hutu militia invaded the home. She remembers that it was the day of her very first menstrual period " the only one she has ever had.
So if we don’t act now, when will we? When the toll reaches 10 million deaths? When Jeanne is kidnapped and raped for a third time?
The prevalence and intensity of sexual violence against women in eastern Congo are "almost unimaginable," the top U.N. humanitarian official said Saturday after visiting the country's most fragile region, where militia groups have preyed on the civilian population for years.
John Holmes, who coordinates U.N. emergency relief operations, said 4,500 cases of sexual violence have been reported in just one eastern province since January, though the actual number is surely much higher. Rape has become "almost a cultural phenomenon," he said.
"Violence and rape at the hands of these armed groups has become all too common," said Holmes, who spent four days in eastern Congo. "The intensity and frequency is worse than anywhere else in the world."
Back with a link or two, however weak.
So, Liberia is not the Congo. But I can imagine.
Was your brother in a 'tribe'?