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Link: ‘The women asked me what they had done to deserve such suffering’

Video: Rape in a Lawless Land

Leah's website: Everything is a Benefit

This is an important and interesting article about the efforts of Leah Chishugi, a nurse and former model who has been living in UK for the past 12 years.  She is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and she has gone home to her native Congolese village to make a documentary about the women who she says have all been victims of rape.

Leah had moved to Kigali as a young woman and was a model.  She had married and had a small child when the genocide erupted in 1994.  She was separated from her husband and she found herself at the Hôtel des Mille Collines (featured in the film Hotel Rwanda).  They tried and failed to get Leah on a flight to Kenya and she separated from her son and was attacked with machetes.  She hid under a pile of corpses and then was amazingly reunited with her son days later.

She landed up in a refugee camp in eastern Congo and then fled to Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.  She found out that her husband had survived and in 1997 she arrived in the UK and was granted asylum.  Her husband arrived shortly afterwards.

In 2000, she discovered that many of her family members had survived and were living in eastern Congo.  Tragically, her father and two sisters had perished. 

The effects of the Rwandan genocide have had far reaching consequences for the people of Congo

The Rwandan Interahamwe were the extremists Hutus behind the 1994 genocide.  They fled into the forests of eastern Congo when they were defeated by the Tutsi RPF.  There is also a Tutsi rebel faction led by the now incarcerated General Laurent Nkunda.  Leah has discovered that these men have been systematically raping women in eastern Congo villages, killing the men and kidnapping young women. 

‘These men are angry and powerless. They are no longer part of society and are living in the forests. The only way for them to feel powerful is to rape defenseless women’ - Leah Chishugi

Regardless of how the men feel, this is a continuing act of genocide.

'On October 2, 1998, the ICTR sentenced former mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu to three life sentences for genocide and crimes against humanity and to 80 years for other violations including rape and encouraging widespread sexual violence. It was the first time an international court punished sexual violence in a civil war and the first time rape was found to constitute an act of genocide, as well as an act of torture' - WomensRightsCoalition.org

All of this happens just 40 miles away from UN bases and aid agencies in the town of Bukavu. Unfortunately, the areas are considered too dangerous for relief workers because of rebel attacks from the Interahamwe and Tutsi factions.

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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