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Public Statements

Condemning Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CONDEMNING SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO -- (House of Representatives - September 23, 2008)

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of House Resolution 1227, which condemns pervasive sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and calls upon responsible nations to take immediate steps to respond.

While many have focused well-deserved attention on the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, Sudan, scant attention has been given to a deadly, festering conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The war in Congo has been called Africa's first ``world war,'' having drawn in seven neighboring countries and spawning some of the worst human rights atrocities known to man. An estimated 4 million people were killed by war, disease and starvation. Armed groups engaged in systematic rape, looting and acts of cannibalism often forcing their victims to victimize others. Children were forcibly recruited to serve as soldiers, and civilians were used as human shields.

Though a 2002 peace agreement and elections in June 2006 paved the way for a new beginning in Congo, these atrocities have continued in the eastern part of the country where a proxy war for control over Congo's vast natural resources continues to rage.

The level of sexual violence in eastern Congo is particularly alarming. It has become so pervasive, Mr. Speaker, and so severe, that the Panzi Hospital in South Kivu has had to perform an estimated 3,500 surgeries annually to repair a particularly stigmatizing injury suffered by those who have been brutally raped. And that is just one hospital. Countless others suffer the physical injury and the social consequences of rape in silence living as outcasts in their own communities.

All parties to the conflict in eastern Congo have taken part in such human rights atrocities, including the armed forces of the Congo and an increasingly vast array of armed militias. Even the United Nations peacekeepers, who have been deployed to help protect civilians in Congo, have engaged in acts of sexual exploitation and abuse themselves.

This is an unspeakable and unforgivable crime that cannot be swept under the carpet.

I want to thank my colleague, Mrs. Maloney of New York, for seeking to draw attention to the scourge of sexual violence in the eastern Congo and for seeking to inspire responsible nations to provide critically needed assistance to those in need.

I would like to thank the sponsor, Mrs. Maloney, as well as our chairman, Howard Berman, for agreeing to modifications which would allay fears raised regarding the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and what was referred to as ``women's reproductive health.''

With these critical changes accepted, I urge support to House Resolution 1227, Mr. Speaker.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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