Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News

Dispatch from the Congo...

Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News: "'They use rape as a weapon of war,' says 33-year-old Marie. 'They have guns, but this is worse than the guns.'

Marie speaks from experience. In 1997 her husband was killed and she was raped by three members of the Hutu Interahamwe militia -- the same group responsible for much of the 1994 genocide against ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda.

For Serapina, 25, the tragic moments of her life lay on top of each other like bricks, each one heavier than the last, slowly building into a crushing weight of unthinkable misery.

"Then they took me outside," she continues. "They beat my husband. Then..." she pauses. "They killed my two children."

She says they looted everything from the house and then torched it. They left her standing naked in front of the flames. It was too much; mind and body shut down, and she says, she fainted.

For Serapina the horror was reprised seven years later. Rebel soldiers connected to Congolese dissident Laurent Nkunda came to the IDP (internally displaced persons) camp where the family was now living because of renewed violence.

"They killed my husband. After having killed him, one tied my arms on a tree. He also had sex with me as before," she says.

She was three months pregnant when she was raped the second time, she says, but two days later she had a miscarriage.

"They mutilated my husband's body. Cut off his arms." And then, she says in an unfathomably calm tone, "they forced me to eat my husband's flesh. They said they would kill me if I refused."

Serapina says she wishes she had died then. The only thing that has given her any hope in the aftermath of these assaults is the comfort from hundreds of others like her; women victimized by the armed groups camping near their communities.

It began, also in 1997, when Rwandan soldiers supporting the Congolese revolt led by Laurent Kabila came to her home in the mountains of eastern Congo.

'They forced the door open,' she says, in a sure and steady voice that has shared this story before. 'They tied my husband on a tree. They had me to lay down. The first one came and he jumped on me. The second came, the third ... and all of them -- there were six -- and they had sex with me.'

When they were finished, she says they shoved a piece of cloth far into her vagina."

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