AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Ten years after the outbreak of the civil war: victims of sexual violence are left to fend for themselves

Thursday, 30 November 2023 armed groups   violence   women  

Bangui (Agenzia Fides) - They are probably the least known and most hidden victims of war: women and girls (but sometimes men and boys) who are subjected to sexual violence by members of the various fighting groups. One of the countries affected is the Central African Republic, where the second civil war that broke out on December 10, 2012 (see Fides, 18/12/2012 saw the Séléka formations opposing each other, a coalition of rebels who accused President François Bozizé of failing to respect the peace agreements signed in 2007 and 2011, to the so-called Anti-balaka, local self-defence militias. All of these armed groups have committed sexual assaults, as the Archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, denounced in October 2013 at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: "The cases of rape are incalculable. People are killed, houses burned and women raped by rebels" (see Fides, 21/10/2013). Ten years after the terrible events in the Central African Republic, the Denis Mukwege Foundation, an international organization that has long been committed to helping victims and survivors of sexual violence in the country, held a ceremony on Sunday, November 26, at the Catholic University Center to launch a series of initiatives to support victims. The Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, has been working for rape victims in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo for decades (see Fides, 2/2/2023). Despite the efforts of the Central African authorities and some non-governmental organizations, the situation of survivors of sexual violence in the Central African Republic remains worrying, said Country Director of the Denis Mukwege Foundation in the Central African Republic, Earvin Isumbisho Mazambi. In addition to providing psychosocial support to survivors of sexual violence related to armed conflict, the Denis Mukwege Foundation has carried out a number of awareness campaigns. According to Oubangui Médias, one in four women is a victim of sexual violence every day. "The victims are sometimes left to their sad fate. They have to be helped to come to terms with everything they have suffered. But unfortunately the survivors receive no help," lamented Francine Evodie Ndémadé, coordinator of the Association of Victims of the Political-Military Crisis in the Central African Republic. One of the victims said that in 2014 she was raped first by Seleka fighters and then by militiamen from the “Anti-Balaka” units, despite being the mother of a baby who was only three months old. The various international troops that have intervened in the Central African Republic over the years have not been spared allegations of rape, from the French military (which has long since withdrawn) to the UN peacekeepers (in 2016, 44 cases were reported by the UN itself) to the Russian Wagner mercenaries. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 30/11/2023)