Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Mairead Maguire Report from Kinshasa on Rape - full text

Below is the full text of Mairead Maguire's account of her Visit to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with Ann Patterson for launch of Anti-Rape in Conflict (War) Campaign:

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, Nobel Women’s Initiative.
(8th May – 14th May, 2012)

(Julienne Lusange, Sofepadi, at launch of Stop Rape in conflict Campaign, Kinshasa, DRC. 11th May, 2012).
Invitation and Visit to Kinshasa

On 8th May, 2012, Ann Patterson and I travelled to the Kinshasa, in DRC, to join Yee Htun, Co-ordinator of the Nobel Womens Initiative International Campaign to Stop Rape in Conflict, and help launch the International campaign, to ‘Stop rape in Conflict’. This was being launched simultaneously in four Countries: Colombia, Kenya, Burma and the DRC in May, 2012.

We had been invited to DRC by Julienne Lusenge of SOFEPADI, an NGO Organization working to support survivors of Rape in conflict, to be present at the International Launch of DRC Campaign in Kinshasa on 11th May, 2012. (Julienne is also a member of the Advisory Board of the International Campaign and we had the pleasure of meeting her several times in Europe).

Meetings with President and Others 

During the week we met in the Parliament, with the President of the DRC Parliament. Also the Ministry of Justice officials, the Minister of Gender, and Several other Government officials. We also had meetings with the Canadian Ambassador, and in MONUSCO (UN) headquarters we met with the Heads of the UN’s campaign to Stop Rape and gender violence. We were accompanied to these meetings by several Congolese women, who were themselves survivors of Rape in conflict and also by Julienne Lusenge of SOFEPADI and Josee Ngalula of Fods Pour Les Femmes Congolaises (FFC) who facilitated the meetings. 

President visibly Moved by Women's Stories of Rape 

The meeting with the President of the DRC Parliament was very moving. The President listened closely whilst the two survivors of rape (Mawa and Leoni) told their stories. He was visibly moved when the women said they were raped by armed Government soldiers, and one of the womens daughters (14) was also raped. They asked for compensation and protection from the armed soldiers. The President promised to appoint a lawyer to follow up their cases. The President said war has is roots in conflict in East Congo in mining and minerals, where armed gangs, rebels, foreign groups, are all in conflict, so the problem is deeply complex. However, he said, the Government is looking at ways of how to stop all kinds of violence and bring peace to DRC.

The Campaign ‘Stop Rape in Conflict’ was officially launched at the Carter Centre, in Kinshasa, on 11th May, 2012. Several women from the survivors group, who travelled a very long distance to be present attended, together with many local grass roots activists (at least 50% of attendees were men); foreign diplomats, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, and the head of MONUSCO, etc.,

Julienne Lusenge's passionate appeal to stop rape

The launch was televised and received excellent press coverage from every news outlet in the DRC. Julienne Lusenge spoke passionately about the need to end rape and sexual violence, about an end to impunity, and she appealed to men to get involved in this important campaign as men are raped too. Julienne said ‘we people of the DRC must stop rape ourselves’. I made an appeal for an end to War, Rape, and all violence, more support for the survivors of Rape, and also more support for the grass roots organizations whose nonviolent work is so necessary. The stories of the two women survivors, who had been raped, moved many of the People in the room to tears. However, it was their dignity and courage which gave hope to us all that this horrific crime of rape can be stopped when enough people speak out and act to put an end to it and Government legislate again this and act on their responsibility to protect their women (and men) against such horrific and criminal abuse by their own Government soldiers, and others. 

The problem with DNA

One of the problems is that when women get pregnant after rape by DRC soldiers, they have no redress. They could be helped if the DRC Government and MONUSCO (UN) made their military, security, etc., accountable for their crime of rape, and this could be done if they held a DNA base for all security personnel. We were advised that MONUSCO do have a DNA base but currently it is not compulsory for their soldiers to comply with this. We believe this should be made compulsory and it would be one important step in protecting the women of DRC and other countries such as Haiti, where reports of rape by UN soldiers in refugee camps have taken place.

 Breaking the Silence Taboo 

Change can come when people have the courage to break the taboo and silence around this crime of rape. Telling their story helps survivors survive, but also helps others become aware that this is happening and act to stop it.
One woman survivor, with great courage and dignity told her story: She said that on lst January, 2010, army soldiers came into their village. They raped her and 50 women and brutalized a further 25 with sticks and weapons. They burned the village and left. She said the women got no medical care. Three days later Soldiers were brought to a Mobile Court and found guilty but they were released after only a few days to rejoin their military units. The soldier who had raped her, who had been charged and released, returned to the village and raped her 14 year old daughter. 

Rape victims deserted and stigmatised

At a Mobile Court, the women got Judgement in their favour but received no papers and as they cannot afford to pay for these papers, then they cannot apply for compensation. However, if they can get the paper stating the Judgement was in their favour they can get Government compensation and go back to their families in the village. They are often abandoned by their husbands after rape, and young unmarried girls are stigmatized and abandoned by their families.  

A Promise from Justice Ministry  

Another woman survivor, who works with a group of 200 survivors, said that none of the group, who had received judgement in their favour, ever got papers. Earlier that week when our delegation met with the Justice Ministry official, he promised they would take up these cases and provide papers for them and that in future papers would be provided free of charge. We considered this a very important commitment by the Justice Ministry and hope they will meet this commitment as soon as possible for the sake of the Survivors.

Dangers of Walking in Open Spaces

One of the women survivors said they have no transport and the villages are completely cut off and if, after rape and abuse women try to walk through the forests they can be attacked and raped again by Soldiers. The woman survivors told us that their villages are often a long way from a hospital, and as they have no one to look after their children they cannot leave them unprotected to go to hospital. She explained women and children suffer extreme trauma and there are few people trained to help them deal with this. 

Men often expel Raped Women from Family Home

After being raped by Government soldiers, men often put the women out of their homes so they have to go to shelters. There are few shelters available and homeless women and children in villages is an increasing daily problem. When asked what the Churches were doing to help, one of the survivors replied ‘they just tell us to pray’. Some people said that they feel the Churches should speak out on issues such as Rape and Sexual violence, but they are silent on the matter.

The Government  promised by Law retribution but because they cannot get paper of Judgement they cannot get retribution (the money would help get them back into family). While some women have started up small business enterprises, sadly many women cannot work because of abuse and several of the survivors appealed for Gynaecologists and Psychologists to come to their villages to help them in their healing and recovery.

Small glimmer of hope 

One of the most hopeful things is that as one man explained ‘ten years ago no one spoke of rape of women (and men) by Government soldiers and others, today it is being acknowledged and legislation and action being put in place to stop this crime of rape and sexual violence'.

There is no doubt that the three pillars of the International campaign to stop rape, - Prevention, Protection and Prosecution - are urgent and vital in the DRC.   But it will take a strong determination and real leadership to eradicate these problems, and also for the International community to see that much more funding is put in place to help DRC get to grips with the roots of this terrible suffering of their people.

Depressed State of Kinshasa

The UN, amongst others, are working in DRC to help stabilize a very volatile and dangerous situation as poverty, violence and war threaten the country. Ten million people live in Kinshasa.  Families are suffering as the Government has little money and most families can only afford one meal every other day! There is no money for teachers and for those lucky enough to attend school, their families have to find the money to pay the teachers. 

Downtown Kinshasa has dirt tracks for roads, and many burnout buildings testify to the violence and fear in these areas. With so many people unemployed and with a currently weak Government, this situation, unless helped, has the potential for more violence. Some people expressed their frustration at MONUSCO (UN) and felt they are not doing enough to help people on the ground, and that so much more could be done by them. 


Several people expressed their frustration as they believed that not enough of the International Aid from both UN Foreign Governments and others, gets to the grass-roots and to the people who are trying to deal with the problems on the ground. Activists also felt there was not enough communication and dialogue between Government/people, national and international NGO. etc., However, we felt we were able to open a very important channel of communication between the national and international NGO and more importantly give the survivors a voice during our presence in the DRC.

Need for Peace

More than anything, the DRC needs peace and an end to war, violence and poverty, the roots of many problems. I hope the International Community will increase its Development Aid to DRC (an important Country in Africa) and particularly focus on supporting local communities many of whom continue to non-violently solve their problems.

Elegance and Grace of Congolese Women

I left the DRC full of hope and inspiration which I got from its people. In spite of facing great challenges they are friendly and welcoming to the stranger and maintain a sense of community and love. My abiding and strongest image is of the elegance and beauty of the Congolese women. Their strong spirits and strength of character even in the face of great hardship, came shining through. I was amazed at the grace with which they moved - tall, unhurried and elegant, their long coloured dresses clinging to their slim bodies. I saw a gentleness and patience, seldom seen in the West where we are often impatient and always in a hurry!.

Men and Boys are Hard Working

In the sweltering heat of the hot sun, the men worked very hard, digging down the deep holes to lay the pipes and build the roads, and the young boys dug up stones to sell to the men, who come along to fill in the pot-holes. Buildings were going up and on the outskirts of Kinshasa, where we stayed, the Palm trees and tropical flowers reminded us of the beauty of the DRC and its people, and its great possibility and potential in this amazingly mineral-rich country on the Equator.


When Ann and I left, we took the people of the DRC in our hearts, and we look forward to returning someday when all violence and war ends, nonviolence has taken deep roots and it amazing people, like Julienne and her family and friends, see their dreams for a peaceful and just DRC comes true.

Mairead Maguire
Contact in DRC: Julienne Lusenge: Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises: www.ffcrdc.org

Monday, 14 May 2012

Pictures from Stop Rape Initiative

From day 5 of the Nobel Women's Initiative to stop rape the following update has come in from Liz Bernstein (courtesy of Ann Patterson)

From: Liz Bernstein
Subject: [StopRapeCom] Update #IPLEDGE Day 5!
To: stoprapecommittee@list.nobelwomensinitiative.org
Date: Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 23:02

Hi ya'll, Can't believe how fast the Week of Action is going! 

We passed the 500 mark!!  Yeah !  As of today 500 organizations have joined - 505 at the time of this writing ! (can you tell I'm a bit addicted to our website live feed?)

And people in 117 countries!

Thanks for your support all ! 

Liz Bernstein
Executive Director
Tel:  +1 613 569-8400, ext. 111

Friday, 11 May 2012

Two Palestinians near death on hunger strike

Two Palestinians, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh are near death on day 73 of their hunger strike against unjust administrative detention by Israel.  Both men allegedly express loyalty for the party called Islamic Jihad but they have not been charged.

Thaer Halahleh has been told he "could die any moment," by an Israeli prison doctor.

Despite his dire physical condition, he is mentally "still strong" according to a lawyer. Until very recently, Israel continued to deny him  necessary medical treatment.

Bilal Diab was arrested on 17 August 2011, at his home in the village of Kufr Ra’i, near Jenin, at 12:30 am. According to witnesses the family and a large group of friends and neighbours were sitting in the front yard, spending time together late into the night for Ramadan, when approximately 40 masked men, wearing civilian clothes, surrounded the house and entered the yard by climbing the walls of the neighbours’ houses.  Bilal’s brother, Issam, was thrown violently to the ground. His hands were shackled behind his back and then two soldiers stepped on his head.

Bilal and four of his friends were questioned for about 15 minutes. His four friends were then released, but Bilal was shackled, blindfolded and thrown to the ground. He was then dragged across the ground for 250 meters until reaching the military jeep. Bilal was taken to Megiddo prison, and then transferred to Salem Detention Centre for interrogation.

Since then he has been held "in administrative detention".

An Irish protest on behalf of the hunger strikers took place in Dublin yesterday. Tommy Donnelan's video of the event can be seen on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afV9cCQGAss

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Yesterday I was the Y in MISERY!

Tommy Donnelan's video tells the story of the big protest yesterday 9 May both outside and  inside the Cement Roadstone Holdings AGM in Dun Laoire.

To Ireland's everlasting shame, Cement Roadstone Holdings help Israel to build their Wall to separate Palestinians and steal their land for new Israeli settlers.

The message outside, held by a long line of protestors, read:
(In the video, I am holding the Y in "MISERY")

Across the road, CRH's own workers were also protesting against salary pay cuts of 20%.

Inside, three shareholders handed up the same message signed by 10,200 individuals.

When Huwaida Arraf made her point about the complicity of CRH in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity  she was told  that CRH had no control over the end-use of the cement.

Huwaida  responded that this was not good enough, "we would not accept that excuse from those who sold ovens and gas to the Nazis".

John Dorman who was the first shareholder to speak said that Huwaida's contribution silenced the room and left the top table with glum faces and nowhere to look, appearing deeply uncomfortable.

 A third speaker Fatene(?) from Hebron related her experiences  from that apartheid city and how her own family has been adversely affected by Israeli policies.

Tommy Donnelan's video on the morning's protets can be seen at video link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WepflKjMlIA

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

TRISTIS - A Short Story

(Written in 1997, recalled today after we left our much loved Tinkerbelle in the Vet's for overnight repairs.  A contribution to the Nobel Women's Initiative this week to stop the rape of women in conflict situations)



The rest of the litter was black and white - more white than black in fact. They were fluffier looking than he was – the convalescing James thought of the black kitten as a "he".
"Look, Mum!"
"What is it?"
"Look at the black kitten!"
"What about him?"
"He's different".
"Of course, he's different, he's black."
"I didn't mean that."
"What did you mean then?"
“I just meant that he was .... different,"

and Monica heard his voice trail away with a drop in pitch that said "It's not important, forget it."

Instead, he continued to stare at the black kitten himself. He had noticed that the little fellow was popular with all of his black and white sisters. (James thought of them as sisters.)

At different times one or other of them would search him out, and stare at him. He would accept the invitation to play, and they would tumble in the grass or run together after a blowing leaf. He had watched this scene for days as he convalesced and had always waited with a secret dread for the big tom-cat to appear at the end of the garden wall.

Once they became aware of him, the kittens all scampered to the shelter of an old door that lay longwise against the wall of the garden shed.

The tom-cat, big and grey and strong, then went to one end of the door. There was a pitiful sound of screeching from one of the kittens while all of the others tumbled headlong through the opening at the end near to James and hid themselves fearfully under the clematis.

All but one. For the unusual thing this morning was that the black kitten had turned back when he heard the screaming. The tom-cat left his quarry inside and chased out to get rid of the intruder. But the black kitten had humped his back, then hissed and spat.

The tom-cat pounced once, got scraped and moved away. Eventually, he scaled the wall, looking back only once with a sour puss, then disappeared from view.
By now, all of the five kittens were playing again; but James followed with his eye every action, every movement of the black. Monica opened a tin of cat food.
"You like the black fellow, I can see."
"I prefer the others myself."
"I know."
"What are you going to call him, then?"
"I don't know"
"Call him Felix."
"Why Felix?
"A lot of people call their cats Felix. It's a Latin word that means “happy.” We had a cat called Felix one time."
"What's the Latin word for sad?"
"I don't know. Why would you want to call him sad anyway?"
"I just do."
"Maybe your Dad might know."
"No, it's alright."
"Just because he doesn't like cats doesn't mean that he won't help you to name him. I'll ask him when he comes in."
Monica threw the empty can into a bin in the kitchen.

Sylvia was two years older than James. She came in the front door just now and threw her coat and schoolbag on a chair. Her cheeks were flushed slightly by the wind and rain. Her brunette shock of hair tousled just a little.
"Where's James?"
"Out with the kittens. Have something to eat, you must be hungry."
"I'll just have a Seven Up if we have one".
She went to the fridge, taking a look out the back as she opened the bottle and poured the drink. Then, as she started to sip, she went out to join her brother. Monica followed her through the open door.
"You'll need something to eat”.,

Her voice faltered a little. Without looking, Sylvia shook her head.
"Don't worry, I'm not hungry."
Her mother retreated feeling, as she always felt on similar occasions, a mixture of helplessness, failure and a touch of fear. She decided not to let her thoughts run in the direction that they had begun to take. Instead, she took the bag and coat that Sylvia had abandoned. She hung up the coat and put the bag under the stairs.

"That's it. Always throw your clothes around and let your mother act the servant. That's all I am in this house - a servant for everybody," and she sounded more convincing by raising her voice a decibel or two to a pitch of anger.


Dermot O Meara was a civil servant. Well dressed, well groomed, clean-shaven, he prided himself a little on his appearance. At 41 he had decided that the forties weren't so bad after all. Life was what you made it yourself. He was five foot eleven, broad-shouldered, fit from his early morning runs, although a slight paunch betrayed his fondness for the delicacies of life. The scent of "Addiction", his favourite After-shave, pervaded the air close to his body even at dinnertime
"So what's this I hear about people studying the classics?"
James and Sylvia cocked their ears, but Monica laughed.

"Oh, that's our James! I wanted to call the black kitten Felix and he wants to know the opposite word; of course, he'll always want to do different to everybody else.”
Sylvia glanced at her brother. Dermot spoke.

"The opposite of Felix is Tristis; both Latin words; Felix means happy. Tristis means....not happy. I agree with James. The other kittens look far happier - far more lovable."

"I didn't mean that", said James. "I like the black kitten."
"You mean you like Tristis", said his father.
Tristis. It's hard to get your mouth around that word", said Monica. "Tristis! Tristis! Come here, Tristis!" she mocked.
"At least, it's unusual, and not common like Felix", said Dermot.

"As usual, you didn't eat your dinner".  

Monica scraped most of Sylvia's plate into the cats' dish. 

"I don't see much point  slaving over a hot oven and cooking dinners for people who won't eat them."
Sylvia, James and Dermot all heard her remark, but none of them answered.

The Senior Counsel rose to address the jury. This was one case he didn't want to lose. His face was serious, his wig slightly askew. The judge leaned forward as he began.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, there is only one verdict you can bring in today, and that is the verdict of guilty.
You have seen Dermot O Meara in the witness box. You have seen Monica O'Meara, his faithful wife, trying desperately to shield her husband from his well-deserved fate. You have seen the videotapes, with the evidence of 14 year old Sylvia O'Meara and of her younger brother James O Meara.
The facts are simple. On the night of February 10th last, twelve year old James woke, as he usually woke, in his own bedroom at 3 a.m. He heard a noise in the bathroom. He expected then to hear a person leave the bathroom. He expected to hear his sister's door creak open and then shut. He expected to hear muffled noises from his sister's room and then the sound of his sister crying. 

He expected to hear all of those things because, night after night, for longer than he could remember, he had heard that sequence of noises: sounds of a person in the toilet, his sister's door creaking open, then shut, muffled noises, followed by his sister crying; and on the night of February 10th he heard them all again. But on this particular night, which was really the morning of Februauy 11th, this brave young boy decided to investigate what had become for him a waking nightmare. He got up, went directly to his sister's room and, in the darkness, attacked her attacker. 

He left scrape marks on her attacker's face, below the left eye. He also left a bite mark on her attacker's ear. He switched on the light and he saw that the attacker was Dermot O Meara, his own father. . . . . ."
The Senior Counsel spoke animatedly for half an hour.

Outside in the great Round Hall of the Four Courts, where learned looking men and women in wigs and gowns chatted and walked and smoked, their Aunt Mary sat between James and Sylvia, asking them about school and hockey and football.
Suddenly a door opened. Dermot O Meara came out, his hands chained to a prison officer.

James thought back to his last birthday when Dermot had bought him his own P.C. It had been a special delivery with a card saying "Happy birthday to the best son in the World".
James held back the tears. He thought he knew now why he had wanted so much to call the black kitten Tristis.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Stop Rape against Women in Conflict

The Nobel Women Laureates are today going to the Congo for a Conference with the above title.  Among the Laureates are Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams.

Please support those in the Congo conference and shout STOP to rape, murder and war - especially when women and children are the victims.

The true stories from around the world of the vicious rape and murder of women that appear on must be seen to believed

Rape of women seems to go along with army conquest. Rape is wrong but rapists get cover from governments who sponsor armies .

Governments and armies everywhere know and fail to stop the rape of women and children who find themselves facing down the loaded barrels of conquering bravados.

These bravados have been trained by armies, paid for by governments.

The crime of rape against these women and children is also a crime on the part of the armies and governments.  

The whistleblowers for war crimes are not rewarded by their governments but punished as traitors.   They are visited with degrading and inhuman treatment, as has happened in the ongoing case of Bradley Manning of the US army. 
Stop Rape Now is asking for pledges from individuals or organisations to do what they can to stop this heinous institutional crime against vulnerable and defenceless women.