News 2008

 

Rape: A controversial weapon in African politics



Scott Morgan / Tennessee Journalist

School of Journalism and Electronic Media

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 05 2008





Genocide Intervention Network



While those murdered in African conflicts are obvious victims, rape victims are often neglected by government organizations.

There is a saying in American popular culture that goes "Same song, different jukebox." A casual observer can easily make the same determination when the United Nations makes the following statement: Evidence has been found of rape being used in fighting in (add your country.) When it comes to Africa, it appears to be the status quo.

Since the end of the Cold War and the resulting fall of the Soviet Union, policy makers in the United States and other countries put Africa on the back burner when it comes to to priorities. So when international media arrived to cover conflicts in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur there was suprise at the scope of the conflict, and at the amount of rape victims.

A UNICEF report revealed that rape occured in locales that were recovering from natural disasters in the region as well.

There is another chilling fact that the UNICEF report revealed. It's not only combatants that are committing these atrocities, but also the civilian population. Earlier this year, the world watched as Kenya burnt after a highly controversial election. Hundreds of people have been killed in the same cycle of violence since the end of December.

The financial costs of the rehabilitation for trauma and the physical injuries can bankrupt a person or even a country that is trying to rebuild after a conflict.

When civil order is disrupted, those left most vulnerable are women, children and the infirm. There has even been evidence of those fleeing the fighting being abused by peacekeepers that were sent to protect them. There have been several reports that U.N. Missions in the DRC, Liberia and Sierra Leone failed to protect refugees from predators. In some cases, the attackers even wore the blue helmets of the United Nations.

The cost of these actions is both a financial burden and the obvious human cost. The physcological impact for a rape victim is unmeasurable. Especially when the attacker is either a person that they trust or someone in a position of authority that was supposed to protect them, the men sent in by a third party to restore order.

The financial costs of the rehabilitation for trauma and the physical injuries can bankrupt a person or even a country that is trying to rebuild after a conflict.

So how can the problem best be resolved? We have heard suggestions that the training of security forces needs to be improved. That in itself would be a positive start. Also, when there are peacekeepers sent to a conflict zone, their missions need to have their powers better defined. Protection of refugees is also a need that sorely needs addressing. Of course, resolving of crises in the contient peacefully would work wonders and be the best long term solution.

 

 

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