Welcome to the jungle: Unamusement Park explores the Congo (part 2)
Aug 24th, 2011 by Unamused
Welcome back to the jungle.
Last time, we held our noses, tried to hold our lunches, and took a queasy look at life (short and miserable) and love (nonconsensual) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: airborne crocodiles crashing planes; penis theft by gold-ringed sorcerers; the protective powers of Pygmy sodomy; Congolese military tactics, with an emphasis on raping 5-year-old girls then shooting them in the vagina (making sure not to kill them outright); epidemics of AIDS, malaria, measles and diarrhea; and the staggering, typically African birth rate that ensures the cycle of slaughter need never stop for want of victims or killers.
Today, we recognize the astonishing depths of DR Congo’s depravity with a second sampling of the horribleness to be found in the poorest country on Earth.
The UN has its hands full in South Kivu, an eastern province of the Congo, where “Sexual atrocities… extend ‘far beyond rape’ and include sexual slavery, forced incest and cannibalism, a U.N. human rights expert said Monday” (AP, 2007).
Yakin Erturk called the situation in South Kivu the worst she has ever seen in four years as the global body’s special investigator for violence against women. Sexual violence throughout Congo is “rampant,” she said, blaming rebel groups, the armed forces and national police.
“The atrocities perpetrated by these armed groups are of an unimaginable brutality that goes far beyond rape,” she said in a statement. “Women are brutally gang raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gun point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters.”
The incest angle is new, but the gang rapes shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who read part 1. Fistulas make their return, as well: “The Panzi hospital, a specialized institution in Bukavu near the Rwandan border, sees about 3,500 women a year suffering fistula and other severe genital injuries resulting from atrocities, Erturk said.”
Horrible stuff. But remember: in the Congo, it always gets worse.
The statement continued: “Frequently women are shot or stabbed in their genital organs, after they are raped. Women, who survived months of enslavement, told me that their tormentors had forced them to eat excrement or the human flesh of murdered relatives.”
Erturk attributes nearly 20 percent of abuse cases to the army and police forces.
Army units have deliberately targeted communities suspected of supporting militia groups “and pillage, gang rape and, in some instances, murder civilians,” she said.
North-west Congo has its share of atrocities, too.
The tactics include “pillaging, torture and mass rape,” she said, citing a December incident when 70 police officers took revenge for the torching of a police station in Karawa by burning the Equator town, torturing civilians and raping at least 40 women, including an 11-year-old girl.
No police officer has been charged or arrested in relation to the atrocities, she said, adding that similar operations have since been carried out in Bonyanga and Bongulu, also in Congo’s northwest.
What was that principle again? Oh, that’s right: in the Congo, it always gets worse. Don’t believe me? Then back to eastern Congo we go (AP, 2005).
Militiamen grilled bodies on a spit and boiled two girls alive as their mother watched, U.N. peacekeepers charged Wednesday, adding cannibalism to a list of atrocities allegedly carried out by one of the tribal groups fighting in northeast Congo.
The allegations of cannibalism in the U.N. report were from a summary of testimony from witnesses gathered over a year from hundreds of people who had been kidnapped by militias in the region. The report said that some victims were killed by torture and decapitation. Those not killed were held in labor camps and forced to work as fishermen, porters, domestic workers and sex slaves.
“Several witnesses reported cases of mutilation followed by death or decapitation,” the report said.
The U.N. report included an account from Zainabo Alfani in which she said she was forced to watch rebels kill and eat two of her children in June 2003.
The report said, “In one corner, there was already cooked flesh from bodies and two bodies being grilled on a barbecue and, at the same time, they prepared her two little girls, putting them alive in two big pots filled with boiling water and oil.”
Her youngest child was saved, apparently because at six months old it didn’t have much flesh.
Alfani said she was gang-raped by the rebels and mutilated. She survived to tell her horror story, but died in the hospital on Sunday of AIDS contracted during her torture two years earlier, the U.N. report said.
The tribal group in question is the Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri, which entered the country from Uganda, according to General Patrick Cammaert, then commander of UN forces in the Congo.
Members of the group were suspected of killing nine U.N. peacekeepers in a Feb. 25 ambush. On March 1, gunmen fired on Pakistani peacekeepers and the peacekeepers fought back, killing up to 60 fighters, U.N. officials said at the time.
At that point, the war had been officially over for three years, ended by a peace accord in 2002. In the Congo, at least in certain provinces, peace looks an awful lot like total war. Emphasis on “awful.”
“Serious gaps in knowledge”
On a lighter note, from 2008 (BBC News):
A minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo has ordered a Kinshasa jail to release a dozen goats, which he said were being held there illegally.
Deputy Justice Minister Claude Nyamugabo said he found the goats just in time during a routine jail visit.
The beasts were due to appear in court, charged with being sold illegally by the roadside.
The minister said many police had serious gaps in their knowledge and they would be sent for retraining.
North Kivu province, Eastern Congo, 2008: fighting breaks out between rival soccer teams Nyuki System and Socozaki during a match. A police officer tries to intervene and is pelted with rocks by spectators. Police fire tear gas into the crowd, which rushes for the exits. Thirteen people die of suffocation (CBC).
Why? Well, it all started when “Nyuki’s goalkeeper reportedly ran up the pitch chanting ‘fetishist’ spells in an attempt to change the course of the match, Radio Olapi [a UN-funded radio station] said.” And so CBC Sports files a perfectly nonjudgmental report: “Witchcraft blamed for deadly Congo soccer riot.”
This is no isolated incident — and that much is not surprising, in a country where many people “use charms and other objects to practise witchcraft as part of their traditional animist beliefs.” What is surprising (to me, at least) is that more and more, the accused witches are children (USA Today).
According to a United Nations report issued this year , a growing number of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being accused of witchcraft and subjected to violent exorcisms by religious leaders, in which they are often beaten, burned, starved and even murdered.
This was confirmed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2010: according to their latest statistics, “around one hundred cases of child sorcery allegations were referred to them in 2008 in the North Kivu province of Eastern Congo alone. That number increased nearly fivefold to 450 in the same area last year ” (BBC News). (Recall that the lethal soccer sorcery riot took place in North Kivu as well.)
The accused children often end up on the street: “The non-profit group Save the Children estimates that 70% of the roughly 15,000 street children in Kinshasa, the capital, were kicked out of their homes after being accused of witchcraft” (USA Today). Javier Aguilar, a child protection officer for UNICEF in Kinshasa puts the number of street children at 20,000, but confirms that 70 percent are accused witches (Christian Science Monitor).
And the fate of these 10,000-14,000 children (that we know of)? According to Arnold Mushiete, a Catholic social worker, “homeless children are frequently raped and beaten, even by police. Drug use is rampant. Girls often resort to prostitution, leaving their own babies to sleep on the side of the road at night while they sell themselves” (USA Today).
Consider the case of 12-year-old “Henri” (BBC News):
“People accused me of sorcery and my mother believed them,” he says.
“Look, here on my stomach. [He “points at a large fresh looking scar on his midriff.”] She tried to kill me with a knife. It really hurt and I cannot understand why my mother did it.” … Henri was then forced to live on the streets until charity workers convinced his mother that the allegations were untrue.
How did his mother respond after accepting that her son was not, in fact, a sorcerer? Henri says: “She didn’t say sorry to me. She didn’t say anything.”
Or take 14-year-old “Jean”: accused by his friend’s parents of being a witch, beaten by his grandparents, taken the local authority where he was beaten and forced to confess, taken to a local priest who confirmed his guilt, and finally saved by the Children’s Voice charity, who informed his grandparents that the Congolese legislature had recently passed a law making it illegal to accuse children of witchcraft. What did Jean do to deserve all that?
It all started, he says, after he went to see a Nigerian horror film about zombies.
“In this movie one person was raising the dead with a stick. I was with a friend and we went to a cemetery to play and try and act out the movie,” he says.
“But when my friend saw me doing this he ran away and accused me of being a sorcerer to his parents.”
Alessandra Dentice, UNICEF’s head of child protection in the Congo, confirms that the new law, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail, is helping.
But the existence of a recently introduced law under the Child Protection Code is one thing. Enforcing it can be quite another, according to local lawyer, Antonie Famber.
“The trouble is that most people here still believe in witchcraft so this makes the law very hard to enforce,” he says.
“To make matter worse even some government officials believe in sorcery themselves. Take the case of a colleague of mine who is also a lawyer. He knows that the law does not recognise sorcery but he has accused his own children of witchcraft.”
Indeed, “Even the head of a special government commission to protect children accused of witchcraft said he thinks it is possible for children to be ‘sorcerers'” (USA Today).
“You sometimes see a very little child with big eyes, black eyes, a distended stomach,” said Theodore Luleka Mwanalwamba. “These are the physical aspects.” … He said cracking down on abusive pastors is difficult because “important people” are sometimes members of their churches.
Hardly surprising, then, that many activists agree that the law is not being enforced. They include Liana Bianchi, administrative director for the humanitarian group Africare, who blames the accusations on poverty: “Accusations of witchcraft,” she says, “have become socially acceptable reasons for why a family turns a child out on the street.”
It’s certainly possible. After all, this is a country where 80 percent of the population earns less than a dollar a day, and where despite one in five children dying before the age of five, nearly half the population is under 14 (Christian Science Monitor). It’s especially possible in Kinshasa: with the decade-long civil war finally winding down, “refugee families flow into the capital… and find they cannot feed themselves. Out of survival, many are using witchcraft as an excuse to expel their most vulnerable members: children.”
That may explain what happened to 13-year-old refugee Kisungu Gloire. He used to live with his stepmother, who “took care of him as one of her own.”
Then one day, Kisungu’s fragile world fell apart.
His stepmother delivered a baby that was stillborn. She blamed Kisungu, calling him a witch. She had a dream that Kisungu was trying to kill her, and then tried to burn him with a flaming plastic bag. She took him to a priest to perform an exorcism, but when that appeared to have failed, she finally stopped feeding him and told him to get out.
“When I would ask for food, she refused,” he says. “Another time I asked for food, she took a kitchen knife and cut me in the eye. When I talked with my brother, he said, ‘Just drop it.’ So then I moved out onto the streets.”
Poverty might also account for the fate of 16-year-old Ntumba Tshimanga, who fled fighting in his hometown for Kinshasa.
After Ntumba’s mother died of an illness, he remained in the care of his grandparents.
Even though Ntumba worked on the street to bring food home, his presence was resented, and soon the family started to accuse him of being a witch. If he was late from an errand, they claimed that he was performing witchcraft on the streets. If there was an illness in the family, it was because Ntumba had cast a spell. Five years ago, Ntumba left to live on the streets.
But poverty cannot explain why Julie Moseka paid $50 to have her 8-year-old daughter Noella exorcised, which is to say tortured, in a country where the average annual salary is $100 (USA Today).
During the ceremony, Pastor Tshombe and three of his aides held Noella’s spindly limbs down and poured hot candle wax on her belly while she screamed and cried. Then the pastor bit down hard and pulled the skin on her stomach, pretending to pull demonic flesh out of her.
“It was imperative that it happen this way,” she [the mother] said, “because the child is accused of witchcraft.”
Alessandra Dentice (UNICEF’s head of child protection) has a broader and altogether more sensible explanation (BBC News): “This is a country where there is no social cohesion any longer, there is no sense of community, no sense of family. So, whenever anything happens at family or community level it is very easy for them to blame someone who is powerless and seems to have no rights.”
She goes on to state that beating and burning children accused of sorcery is “very common”: “I have just received this morning a report about a girl of 12 years old who has been burnt because she was accused of witchcraft.”
Do I lose “racist” credibility if I admit these stories make me sad? Now, I’m not actually going to do anything to help the Congo out (for reasons which will become clear later in this series, if they aren’t already) but some people are giving it a shot — Ben Affleck and Cindy McCain, for instance (Huffington Post). It seems to be working: international relief — when it isn’t cut off by renewed fighting between the army and rebels (BBC, UNICEF) or, more directly, by the kidnapping of aid workers (CNN) — does succeed at prolonging the lives of the Congolese (Baltimore Sun). Then the Congolese they save get pregnant and pop out even more Congolese (The Star):
Half of Congo’s 35 million women give birth by age 19 and have an average of 6.2 children during their fertile years. They start too soon and continue too long. Only an estimated 6 per cent of Congolese use contraception. Added into that mix, of course, are catastrophic rape figures driven by the continuing conflict in the eastern part of the country.
Thus, as of 2011, the Congo has the 11th highest birth rate in the world, and the 14th highest population growth rate, at 2.835 percent (CIA).
This raises an interesting question: given that the Congo is the way it is (i.e. horrible in every way imaginable, and a few other ways besides), why is the Congo the way it is?
If the answer is historical, i.e. “the Congo sucks because of the evil Belgians who colonized it,” then surely now that the Belgians are out, the Congo will improve… eventually. But the fact that it seems to be moving in the opposite direction is a point against this theory. On the other hand, if the answer is genetic, i.e., racial, i.e. “the Congo sucks because it’s full of Congolese,” then the Congo will probably not improve on any timescale short of geological.
If the genetic theory holds, then given that the Congo is such a horrible place to live (which it surely is), then why should we endeavor to produce more Congolese to suffer in it? Isn’t it immoral to slightly prolong and ever-so-slightly improve the lives of the Congolese, if it just dooms even more Congolese (the Congolese… OF THE FUTURE) to a slightly prolonged existence in that ever-so-slightly improved but still pretty damn horrible environment? We may not have a moral imperative to deny them aid, but mustn’t our aid begin with contraception? Or what about (ominous music) sterilization?
And if the genetic theory holds, then given that we, the inhabitants of those wonderful white-majority nations, don’t want to live in the Congo ourselves (which we surely don’t), then shouldn’t we try very hard to keep the Congolese out of our countries? Otherwise, won’t they, through their prodigious reproduction and unique, er, “genetic legacy,” inevitably drag us down to their level?
Interesting questions, all. We will investigate them further in part 3.
Modernity is very bad for them [the Congolese]. Since they never came close to developing weapons such as machetes and guns, or technology such as cars and planes, they are completely mentally unequipped to integrate such modern marvels into their lives. I do not believe in colonization. The Congolese have every right to self determination as we do. If all charity and Western (and now Eastern) meddling were to cease, Congo would return to its natural state in a matter of years. Eventually the guns would break and they would not know how to fix them, the planes run out of fuel… and so on. It is profoundly morally corrupt to be an HBD denier. I feel a great deal of sympathy for the Congolese women who are suffering at the hands of this stupid globalist PC experiment. They are not at the point where technology can help them, they are too violent and dumb. It’s best to let them be. They do not have to be like us. They don’t need Doritos and AK-47s. They evolved in a way that was best for them.