Useful website for LGBT Africa: http://www.mask.org.za/
May 23, 2005 – New York Times (non-gay background story)
by Marc Lacey in NairobiI, Kenya
The United Nations, burdened by its inability to stave off the mass killings in Rwanda in 1994 and by failed missions in Bosnia and Somalia, is allowing its peacekeepers to mount some of the most aggressive operations in its history. The change has been evolving over the last decade, as the Security Council has adopted the notion of "robust peacekeeping" and rejected the idea that the mere presence of blue-helmeted soldiers on the ground helps quell combat.
It is most obvious in Democratic Republic of Congo, which commands by far the largest deployment of United Nations troops in the world. Peacekeepers in armored personnel carriers, facing enemy sniper attacks as they lumber through rugged dirt paths in the eastern Ituri region, are returning fire. Attack helicopters swoop down over the trees in search of tribal fighters. And peacekeepers are surrounding villages in militia strongholds and searching hut by hut for guns.
" The ghost of Rwanda lies very heavily over how the U.N. and the Security Council have chosen to deal with Ituri," said David Harland, a top official at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York.
A turning point came in 2000 after rebels in Sierra Leone killed some peacekeepers and took hundreds more hostage. The United Nations commissioned a review, headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria, which called for troops to be deployed more rapidly in peace enforcement operations. "No amount of good intentions can substitute for the fundamental ability to project credible force," the so-called Brahimi Report said.
Recently a commander in eastern Congo, a Bangladeshi colonel named Hussain Mahmud Choudhury, pointed at a huge map in his office in Bunia, the regional capital, to show a reporter where his troops had been chasing the militias. "Here, here, here," he said, banging on the map. " If we hear they are somewhere, we move in," he said. "We don’t get them all the time, but they have to run. Their morale is shattered, and from a military point of view, that is everything."
The peacekeepers in Haiti, as well, are using Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which allows them to protect their soldiers or innocent civilians by using force. Peace missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Burundi and Ivory Coast – each with its own rules of engagement – have also moved well beyond the traditional notion of peacekeeping in which blue helmets occupy a neutral zone between former combatants.
But nowhere do war and peace seem as cloudy as in Congo, where peacekeepers received a beefed-up mandate from the Security Council in 2003 – and where at least one human rights group has complained of civilian casualties. " The trend over the last decade is that you deal with many factions, factions that don’t always have a political agenda and that are not always committed to peace," said Margaret Carey, an Africa specialist at the United Nations’ peacekeeping office. "Ituri is an extreme example."
The operation in Congo began as a modest observer mission in 1999. It has mushroomed, now commanding 16,500 soldiers – but is still regarded as understaffed by United Nations officials in New York. After the failed missions of the 1990’s, Western countries began contributing significantly fewer troops overseas. In 1998, about 45 percent of peacekeepers came from Western armies. The figure is now less than 10 percent; most now come from the developing world.
In Congo, most of the peacekeepers are Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Nepalese. As they root out the insurgents who prey on Ituri’s population, United Nations soldiers in the east have at their disposal tanks, armored personnel carriers, Mi-25 attack helicopters, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers – all of which are getting heavy use.
" It may look like war but it’s peacekeeping," said Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal, the force commander in Congo, of the largest and most robust of the 18 United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world. At a militia camp in Kagaba recently, the peacekeepers backed up besieged Congolese troops and engaged in a running battle with ethnic Lendu fighters.
In March, after an ambush that killed nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers, the United Nations forces raided a crowded market near Loga to root out fighters preying on the local population. The peacekeepers also conduct what they call "cordon and search" operations, which are essentially hunts for weaponry in remote villages.
Their opponents are tribal fighters who ignored the United Nations deadline of April 1 for disarming. A last opportunity to comply is approaching; after that, the peacekeepers say they will get even tougher. As the United Nations has become more aggressive, many tribal warriors have disarmed. Of the 15,000 fighters that the United Nations estimates once operated in Ituri, nearly 14,000 have turned in their weapons. The holdouts are fierce, and show no signs of surrendering.
In February, militia fighters ambushed a group of Bangladeshi soldiers on a foot patrol around a camp of displaced people. Nine peacekeepers were killed, then mutilated.
On May 12, another Bangladeshi patrol was ambushed. This time, six were wounded and one was killed. At a memorial service, Dominique Aitouyahia-McAdams, the top civilian in the United Nations operation in Bunia, said the death would only embolden the operation in its quest for peace. She called those who killed the peacekeepers "remnant militia bandits still marauding in the district."
General Gaye was in Bunia the other day to attend a lavish ceremony for the first anniversary of a peace deal that the militias signed, agreeing to give up their guns. Since that declaration, one of the half dozen militias in Ituri has disbanded, and others have shrunk to small bands. Various militia leaders have been arrested by the Congolese, with help from peacekeepers. But the ceremony occurred a day after the memorial service, demonstrating that the job was not done. United Nations peacekeepers in Congo were not always so gung-ho. For years, they were criticized for huddling in their camps as atrocities recurred in the countryside. Now, some critics condemn them for being too aggressive. And critics also denounce the sexual abuse of girls by some peacekeepers.
Justice Plus, a rights group based in Bunia, lamented that when the peacekeepers raided the market near Loga some civilians "paid with their life while the mandate of the United Nations was to protect them." The get-tough approach wins praise from those in Bunia who remember when, just two years ago, it was a battlefield between rival Hema and Lendu militias. As Lendu militias chased Hemas out of Bunia in May 2003, Lea Assamba, 17, was confronted by armed Lendu men and threatened with death. She said she explained to them frantically that she was not a Hema but someone from another tribe, one not involved in Ituri’s madness.
The militiamen made her suffer nonetheless. They killed a Hema girl standing by, and her body fell on Lea. They made her balance on her head the decapitated head of a Hema man, she said. The stranger’s blood dripped down on her. Lea escaped but was confronted by more marauding militias down the road. They shot some people standing next to her, and she dropped to the ground as they did. They died. She, covered with blood, was left for dead. " Things would not be good if Monuc went away," Lea said, using the French acronym for the United Nations mission in Congo. But not far from Bunia, awful things continue. Villagers are on the run. Men with guns and machetes chase them. In the midst of it, heavily armed United Nations soldiers are trying to extend their reach. They engage in something shy of war but also a long way from peace.
Marc Lacey reported from Bunia, Congo, and Nairobi for this article.
2 August 2008 – msmandhiv.org
2 – "Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights"
On 2 August 2008, Si Youth Knew, an association of young feminists Congolese gathered in Kinshasa, representatives of major women’s organizations, defense of human rights, health programs, media professionals and youth exchange, discuss and see how to engage the promotion, protection and defense of sexual and reproductive rights of LGBTI people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The seminar-workshop scheduled to start on 17 May 2008 to commemorate the world day against homophobia, has been postponed twice due to lack of funding. It is therefore with pleasure If Youth Knew welcomed the positive response of the "collaborative effort of Acton Urgent Fund-Africa has fully funded the project. The seminar-workshop was also financial participation of the African Bureau of International lesbians and gay human rights commission (ILGHRC) which took over the hosting of a participant from the province of Maniema to 1800 km from Kinshasa.
The office of the United Nations for Human Rights (BNUDH) had also agreed to issue three promissory notes free of aircraft that 3 sexual rights activists, representing the association Swallow Group (RI) working in partnership with Youth If Knew powerful rally Bukavu in South Kivu in Kinshasa Unfortunately circumstances beyond the goodwill of the Office of the United Nations for Human Rights (BNUDH) have enabled its participants to move to the capital.
20 June 2009 – AllAfrica.com
by Joshua Kyalimpa
Kampala – Widespread gender-based violence against women and children in the conflict zones of the Great Lakes region has received some attention in recent years; less well-known is the extent of sexual violence against men. A new documentary film shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Uganda and elsewhere in the region shows the extent of sexual violence against men.
"You are worth nothing. You are like women," says one of the male rape survivors in the film, recounting what government soldiers told him. "They would ask you to bend and remove your trousers and different soldiers would penetrate you through the anus. They put their penis wherever they could see an opening: in the ears, mouth, and the anus. By the time they were done I had sperm all over my body," another survivor of sexual abuse recounts.
Women and men alike are raped in conflict situations in order to dominate them physically and psychologically. Male survivors are humiliated in terms of socially-accepted sexual and gender roles. Survivors in the film describe women being told to lie on top of their husbands while being assaulted by soldiers; of men raped in front of their wives to demonstrate their weakness vis-à-vis government soldiers. Just as is the case for women, comprehensive statistics on the extent of sexual violence against men in the region is difficult to come by.
The Refugee Law Project of the Makerere University faculty of law provides counselling, documentation and advocacy on refugee issues towards better refugee policies in Uganda. Dr Chris Doran, director of the project, told IPS at the launch of the film in Kampala that at least three out of 10 male refugees reporting to the centre have been sexually abused. Moses Chrispus Okello, the centre’s head of research and advocacy, says many more men could be suffering in silence, fearing society may shun them if they speak out. According to the Refugee Law Project, there are cases where police, rather than going after the perpetrators, have accused male survivors of rape of engaging in homosexual acts – outlawed in Uganda.
Women’s rights activists Akina Mama wa Africa argue that gender inequality, inadequate laws and poor-or non-existent-enforcement contribute to the problem; inadequate statistics and funding mean support for survivors is limited. Men who suffer rape find themselves living in a woman’s reality. Dr Sylvia Tamale, former dean of the faculty of law at Makerere University and advisor to the RLP, says because the penal code does not recognise rape committed against men, perpetrators can only be charged with "indecent assault" which attracts much lighter punishment.
The documentary will be used to expose the realities of sexual assault against the men to governments in the region and the donor community. The film-makers believe it should open up research into the issue and lead to a clearer understanding of sexual violence in the conflict-ridden Great Lakes region.
August 5, 2009 – The New York Times
Symbol of Unhealed Congo: Male Rape Victims
By Jeffrey Gettleman
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo — It was around 11 p.m. when armed men burst into Kazungu Ziwa’s hut, put a machete to his throat and yanked down his pants. Mr. Ziwa is a tiny man, about four feet, six inches tall. He tried to fight back, but said he was quickly beaten down. “Then they raped me,” he said. “It was horrible, physically. I was dizzy. My thoughts just left me.” For years, the thickly forested hills and clear, deep lakes of eastern Congo have been a reservoir of atrocities. Now, it seems, there is another growing problem: men raping men.
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 joint military operation that began in January between Rwanda and Congo, David and Goliath neighbors who were recently bitter enemies, were supposed to end the murderous rebel problem along the border and usher in a new epoch of cooperation and peace. Hopes soared after the quick capture of a renegade general who had routed government troops and threatened to march across the country.
But aid organizations say that the military maneuvers have provoked horrific revenge attacks, with more than 500,000 people driven from their homes, dozens of villages burned and hundreds of villagers massacred, including toddlers thrown into open fires.
And it is not just the rebels being blamed. According to human rights groups, soldiers from the Congolese Army are executing civilians, raping women and conscripting villagers to lug their food, ammunition and gear into the jungle. It is often a death march through one of Africa’s lushest, most stunning tropical landscapes, which has also been the scene of a devastatingly complicated war for more than a decade.
“From a humanitarian and human rights perspective, the joint operations are disastrous,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. The male rape cases span several hundred miles and possibly include hundreds of victims. The American Bar Association, which runs a sexual violence legal clinic in Goma , said that more than 10 percent of its cases in June were men. Brandi Walker, an aid worker at Panzi hospital in nearby Bukavu, said, “Everywhere we go, people say men are getting raped, too.”
But nobody knows the exact number. Men here, like anywhere, are reluctant to come forward. Several who did said they instantly became castaways in their villages, lonely, ridiculed figures, derisively referred to as “bush wives.”
Since being raped several weeks ago, Mr. Ziwa, 53, has not shown much interest in practicing animal medicine, his trade for years. He limps around (his left leg was crushed in the attack) in a soiled white lab coat with “veterinaire” printed on it in red pen, carrying a few biscuit-size pills for dogs and sheep. “Just thinking about what happened to me makes me tired,” he said.
The same is true for Tupapo Mukuli, who said he was pinned down on his stomach and gang-raped in his cassava patch seven months ago. Mr. Mukuli is now the lone man in the rape ward at Panzi hospital, which is filled with hundreds of women recovering from rape-related injuries. Many knit clothes and weave baskets to make a little money while their bodies heal.
But Mr. Mukuli is left out. “I don’t know how to make baskets,” he said. So he spends his days sitting on a bench, by himself. The male rape cases are still just a fraction of those against women. But for the men involved, aid workers say, it is even harder to bounce back. “Men’s identity is so connected to power and control,” Ms. Walker said.
And in a place where homosexuality is so taboo, the rapes carry an extra dose of shame. “I’m laughed at,” Mr. Mukuli said. “The people in my village say: ‘You’re no longer a man. Those men in the bush made you their wife.’ ”
Aid workers here say the humiliation is often so severe that male rape victims come forward only if they have urgent health problems, like stomach swelling or continuous bleeding. Sometimes even that is not enough. Ms. Van Woudenberg said that two men whose penises were cinched with rope died a few days later because they were too embarrassed to seek help. Castrations also seem to be increasing, with more butchered men showing up at major hospitals.
Last year, Congo’s rape epidemic appeared to be easing a bit, with fewer cases reported and some rapists jailed. But today, it seems like that thin veneer of law and order has been stripped away. The way villagers describe it, it is open season on civilians. Muhindo Mwamurabagiro, a tall, graceful woman with long, strong arms, explained how she was walking to the market with friends when they were suddenly surrounded by a group of naked men.
“They grabbed us by the throat and threw us down and raped us,” she said. Worse, she said, one of the rapists was from her village. “I yelled, ‘Father of Kondo, I know you, how can you do this?’ ” One mother said a United Nations peacekeeper raped her 12-year-old boy. A United Nations spokesman said that he had not heard that specific case but that there were indeed a number of new sexual abuse allegations against peacekeepers in Congo and that a team was sent in late July to investigate.
Congolese health professionals are becoming exasperated. Many argue for a political solution, not a military one, and say Western powers should put more pressure on Rwanda, which is widely accused of preserving its own stability by keeping the violence on the other side of the border. “I understand the world feels guilty about what happened in Rwanda in 1994,” said Denis Mukwege, the lead doctor at Panzi Hospital, referring to Rwanda’s genocide. “But shouldn’t the world feel guilty about what’s happening in Congo today?View ”
Slideshow – A Predatory Conflict in Congo
October 7, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Democratic Republic of Congo Still Hostile To Homosexuality
by Junior Mayema
Kinshasa – Despite its six million inhabitants, Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is far from a city where one can live openly and express their sexual orientation. On this day everywhere in Africa, homosexuality is considered an abomination and a way of relating imported ideas from the West. Just walk the streets of this vast city to understand how difficult it is to receive a same-sex partner. Moreover, within the family, the pressure is often so strong that the paper of a homosexual is like an ordeal.
Dody, a young boy barely out of adolescence, had to change his look following the threats of his parents to drive the family home. They even decided not to pay his school fees after discovering his homosexuality. The case of Dody is also experienced by other young people in Kinshasa. Once they come out, they are abused by their relatives who see this as a divine curse. Dennis, 21, a friend of Dody, experienced an almost similar situation. His mother and sister were morally threatened for months when they learned that the young man was gay. Privation at home has also led to occasional prostitution.
Dennis revealed that his clients were filled with gentlemen who have enjoyed the company of young gays. Unwilling longer pursue his studies, he spends his time doing the oldest profession in the world and admitted that it gave him a certain comfort despite the hardships he has suffered. Asked how the meetings are held with clients because it is strictly prohibited for tenants of hotels to accept homosexual couples. Dennis said he met his clients at their homes or in large hotels in the capital. Finally, he said that his clientele was composed of Congolese and African males, but more frequently those from Europe.
Many gay people find themselves in poverty, which unfortunately is rampant in recent years in Kinshasa and throughout the country. They prostitute themselves in the shallows of the city and its neighborhoods, often carelessly. Most of these exiles live with friends or rent group apartment. But it is almost impossible for a homosexual to rent, for example a house because it is difficult to convince donors to accept a person with a particular sexuality. Sometimes they pose as straight but eventually the truth comes into the open.
Coco, another financially successful gay man decided one day to leave his family to live with him by renting a four room in a commune of Kinshasa. He was not openly gay, when he moved into his "house" it was not long before neighbors became suspicious because he only had male visitors, many of whom were effeminate. Therefore, Coco was the main topic in the neighborhood and threats began to fall. One evening came a mob of young men who came to attack him verbally forcing the young man to flea and move back with his family.
Hostile acts are not isolated. They are present in the city of Kinshasa and nobody talks about because they affect a layer which is constantly criticized. Kinshasa is certainly a big city but also a large village. The adoption of a law against homosexuality is being discussed at the Provincial Assembly of Kinshasa. It will undoubtedly spark widespread homophobia and this will put the lives of many homosexuals in great danger
November 8, 2010 – Black Looks
Criminalising homosexuality in the Democratic Republic of Congo
by Sokari on – in DRC, LGBTIQ
The Democratic Republic of Congo parliament is presently debating proposed in the process of discussing legislation which will criminalise homosexuality. There are a number of major difference between the DRC Bill and legislation proposed in for example, Nigeria and Uganda which have proposed similar legislation. First the DRC does not presently have any laws on homosexuality and secondly this Bill includes a clause criminalising zooophilia which is directly associated with homosexuality “.
[English translation] The moral rules tell us that homosexuality (lesbianism) is a zoophilia termed moral depravity abomination, references to the Bible and other writings. Given the requirements to preserve our society of this scourge and promote destructive Congolese culture on the one hand, and to overcome the repressive system Congolese become incomplete and inadequate for the evolution and cultural mix in planetary scale on the other.
The Bill is framed in the usual language that homosexuality is “unAfrican” against ‘our’ culture, ‘threat’ to family and religious preservation. In other areas the Bill is similar in that it also aims to criminalise any activities that directly or indirectly aim to promoting the rights LGBTI persons, therefore, in accordance with section 174h3 of the Bill, “all publications, posters, pamphlets, (or) films highlighting or likely to arouse or encourage sexual practices against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC (Section 174h3)” and “all associations that promote or defend sexual relations against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC.”
However the Bill is facing some parliamentry opposition on the basis that it will “violate individual freedoms dearly proclaimed by the Constitution and goes against the current trend of wider individual and human rights in the DRC”. In addition human rights and LGBTI within the DRC and other countries in Central and East Africa are working diligently to prevent the Bill from being passed – it is also important and in the best interest of those who would be directly affected by the legislation that local groups take the leadership in decision making and responding to the bill.
As usual religious leaders of all persuasions are at the forefront of condemning gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people but remain eerily silent on the violence of poverty, on the systematic rape of women by various militias and the Congolese armed forces, poverty and the massive levels of corruption in the DRC government. It is obvious that the proposed law like its siblings in other parts of the continent is nothing more than a political decoy for a government which is not willing to address the real needs and issues facing it’s citizens.
March 7, 2011 – Behind The Mask
Lack Of Funds Impede Fight Against DRC’S Anti Homosexuality Bill
Almost five months after the anti homosexuality bill was tabled before the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) organisations and activists say they have not had the opportunity to mobilize or even undertake any action to opposethe bill due the lack of funding to support the activities. Jean Bedel Kaniki of Hirondelles Bukavu, an LGBTI organisation in DRC organisations had solely depended on financial support promised by and international funder, which they did not get.
“We have planned many actions with human rights and civil society organisation. Unfortunately we never received the fund and we have not heard from them and as a result we could not undertake any action. It is my deepest regret that we missed this opportunity to campaign against the proposed bill and raise awareness on LGBT issues”, Kaniki said. The bill, comprising of seven articles, was presented before the National Assembly in October 2010 and was sent to the National Assembly’s committee on society and culture – the socio-cultural committee – that will discuss the permissibility of its provisions and the principles of the constitution before its promulgation.
In the following weeks the LGBT community in DRC received a lot of support from LGBT organisations in the continent and abroad. Diverse articles and open letters were also published on the internet denouncing the proposed Bill as a gross human rights violation that goes against all international treaties ratified by the DRC. LGBT organisations in the country were allegedly promised sufficient funds to mobilize the community and set up a strategic plan to oppose the bill but these never materialised.
However Behind the Mask is aware that the bill was not debated by the Socio- cultural Committee during the last and current session of parliament. Kaniki said it is unlikely that it will be debated during the current session of parliament that ends on the 15 March 2011 since “there have been more pressing issues debated during the last and current sessions of parliament. My prediction is that it will be debated during the next session that will start in June this year.”
“If nothing is done, considering the support the bill has received in the public opinion, the parliament will probably pass the law that criminalizes homosexuality. Elections are around the corner; therefore the vote of the parliament will depend on the role that law could play in political campaign and calculation. “
The Sexual Practices Against Nature Bill will, if passed, criminalize homosexuality and sexual practices with animals such as zoophilia and bestiality It will also criminalise any activities that promote the rights of LGBTI persons. Section 174h3 of the Bill stipulates that, “all publications, posters, pamphlets, (or) films highlighting or likely to arouse or encourage sexual practices against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC and “all associations that promote or defend sexual relations against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC.”
Any offender contravening this Bill will be punished by 3 to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of 500,000 Congolese francs (Section 174h1).