The eastern Congo has been described as a "reservoir of atrocities" and the "rape capital of the world." Now, as joint military operations escalate between Rwanda and Congo to stamp out the warring militias along the border, the New York Times reports armed and murderous militias are raping male villagers.
Mitima Mohigirwa is seen above. He was gang raped by five soldiers in 2004 and says his father was "so ashamed" that he left him after the assault.
According to Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, United Nations officials and several Congolese aid organizations, the number of men who have been raped has risen sharply in recent months, a consequence of joint Congo-Rwanda military operations against rebels that have uncapped an appalling level of violence against civilians.
Aid workers struggle to explain the sudden spike in male rape cases. The best answer, they say, is that the sexual violence against men is yet another way for armed groups to humiliate and demoralize Congolese communities into submission.
The United Nations already considers eastern Congo the rape capital of the world, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to hear from survivors on her visit to the country next week. Hundreds of thousands of women have been sexually assaulted by the various warring militias haunting these hills, and right now this area is going through one of its bloodiest periods in years.
The male rape cases "span several hundred miles and possibly include hundreds of victims" but no one knows the exact number. In this part of the world where homosexuality is taboo—nearby Burundi has attempted to legislate homosexuality out of existence—the rapes carry an extra dose of shame.
Kazungu Ziwa says armed men burst into his hut, put a machete to his throat, yanked down his pants and beat him down. "Then they raped me," he said. "It was horrible, physically. I was dizzy. My thoughts just left me."
Many raped men in Congo, like those across the world, are reluctant to come forward. Several who did said they instantly became castaways in their villages and ridiculed as "bush wives."
An excellent report by the Times. And how courageous of these men and women to come forward and tell their stories.
Symbol of Unhealed Congo [NYT]