By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: February 10, 2010
I’ve learned some new words.
One is “autocannibalism,” coined in French but equally appropriate in English. It describes what happens when a militia here in eastern Congo’s endless war cuts flesh from living victims and forces them to eat it.
Another is “re-rape.” The need for that term arose because doctors were seeing women and girls raped, re-raped and re-raped again, here in the world capital of murder, rape, mutilation.
This grotesque vocabulary helps answer a question that I’ve had from readers: Why Congo? After a previous visit to eastern Congo, a reader named Jim D. objected. “Yes there are horrible things happening in Africa,” he wrote on my blog. “None are anything we can do anything about by ourselves.”
“My question is why do you not concentrate on this nation’s poor,” he asked. “Yes, Africa suffers, but you need to look in your own house first.”
Jim D. has a legitimate complaint, echoed by other readers: We have enormous needs at home, and we shouldn’t let foreign crises distract us from them.
But do we really need to say that we can’t address suffering in Congo or Haiti, or anywhere else, because we have our own needs? Particularly when the Congo war has claimed so many lives (perhaps more than six million), isn’t it time for the U.S. to lead a major, global diplomatic push for peace?
My Sunday column is again from Congo, through the lens of a doctor (Denis Mukwege) and his patient (Jeanne Mukuninwa). They are both extraordinary figures, and Dr. Mukwege is sometimes mentioned — most deservedly — as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. His Panzi Hospital is an oasis in South Kivu, just as the Heal Africa Hospital is in North Kivu.
(There is, though, a widespread misapprehension that most of the vaginal fistulas here are caused by rape. Some are, but the great majority are now caused by obstructed labor in childbirth. In 2009, Panzi Hospital received about 400 fistula cases, with about eight caused by rape. But Panzi receives about 10 rape cases a day, and those are only the tip of the iceberg, since most rape survivors never seek treatment.)
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: February 6, 2010
It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.
But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.
What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation, in ways that sear survivors like Jeanne Mukuninwa, a beautiful, cheerful young woman of 19 who somehow musters the courage to giggle. Her parents disappeared in the fighting when she had just turned 14 — perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up — so she moved in with her uncle.
WASHINGTON — A day after the first details began to emerge of the Obama administration’s long-awaited policy for Sudan — one that proposes working with the government rather than isolating it — advocates of a tougher approach toward Khartoum said they wished the administration had been stronger.
But they also expressed relief at what has been released so far, saying they had feared the White House would take an even more conciliatory line toward the government, whose leader has been charged with crimes against humanity.
GOMA, Congo — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a $17 million comprehensive plan to fight sexual violence in eastern Congo on Tuesday, a problem she said was “evil in its basest form.”
Speaking during an unprecedented visit by an American secretary of state to Goma, in the epicenter of Congo’s war torn east, she said the American government will help train gynecologists, supply rape victims with video cameras to document violence, and dispatch military engineers to help train Congolese police to crack down on rapists.