Ten Things You Can Do About the War in Congo
This new monthly feature was conceived by writer and Nation editorial board member Walter Mosley as a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device. Most often "Ten Things" will offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end, often by bringing to light something generally unknown. The purpose of the new feature is to go to the heart of issues in a stripped-down, active and informed way. After getting our visiting expert--or everyday person--to construct the list, we will interview that person and post a brief online version of "Ten Things," with links to relevant websites, books or other information. Readers who wish to propose ideas for "Ten Things" should e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The peace agreement signed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 did not end the war. An estimated 400,000 women have been raped in the past ten years in what can only be called an act of femicide--the planned and systemic destruction of women. Women have suffered fistulas from rapes with knives, guns and penises. Women have been forced to eat dead babies. Soldiers who are HIV-positive are sent to villages to rape wives in front of their husbands, girls in front of their fathers. The systematic breakdown of the family is part of a larger plan to loosen the community's grip on its natural resources--diamonds, gold and especially coltan, used to make laptops and cellphones.
In this first installment, we talked to Eve Ensler, playwright, activist and founder of V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. Ensler's approach to "Ten Things" is a list for the nation to put pressure on President-elect Obama to focus on Africa without delay.
Educate yourself about Congo's history of Belgian colonialism, its connection to the Rwandan genocide, the horrific femicide that is occurring there, which has left hundreds of thousands of women raped and sexually tortured, and the economic war that is fueling the violence. Spread the word. Visit newsite.vday.org/drcongo/background. Educate others by holding a teach-in for your community. Watch "Beneath Her Pange" and "LUMO."
Help support a burgeoning grassroots women's movement in the DRC and around the world. Organizations include Heal Africa, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, International Rescue Committee, Raise Hope for Congo, Friends of the Congo and Human Rights Watch. Support Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power to Women and Girls of DRC, a global campaign.
Demand a tenfold increase in UN peacekeepers--including women peacekeepers specifically trained in sexual violence--by writing to your elected officials.
Demand that women be involved in any future peace talks, by writing to your elected officials.
Demand the arrest and prosecution of war criminals involved in sexual violence, child soldiering and other atrocities at the International Criminal Court, by writing to your elected officials.
Demand that President-elect Obama's administration put pressure on the Rwandan and Congolese leadership to come together at the negotiating table and stop supporting Laurent Nkunda and the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), respectively.
Pressure the DRC government to make ending sexual violence a priority, by writing to President Joseph Kabila. For a downloadable letter, visit newsite.vday.org/drcongo/getinvolved. Tell him to train and support many more women police officers who can protect vulnerable women.
Help provide resources to raped and violated women. Donate to the City of Joy, a joint project of Panzi Hospital, V-Day and UNICEF, where women can turn their pain into power; or buy a handmade Congolese bag (store-vday.org) to support the economic empowerment of women survivors. To donate, go to secure.ga4.org/01/drcongo.
Write to your local editorial boards and ask them to cover the Congo war. Blog about the Congo war.
Attend the Turning Pain to Power Tour, a nationwide tour coming to a city near you.
CONCEIVED by WALTER MOSLEY
with research by Rae Gomes