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Tired of murders targeting women, Ugandans take to the streets in peaceful protest
by Prudence Nyamishana
Since 2015, at least 42 Ugandan women have been kidnapped, maimed and murdered in and around Uganda''s capital Kampala, half of them in a space of only three months in 2017. Some of their bodies were found with brutal signs of sexual violence.
The string of murders, all bearing gruesome similar details, has horrified the country. The motivation behind them remains unclear, but witchcraft is a popular theory. Authorities are yet to charge a single suspect.
Tired of living in fear, the women of Uganda felt they had to do something.
On June 30, 2018, the Women’s Protest Working Group (WPWG), with the support of feminists from other countries, staged a peaceful demonstration in the capital city of Kampala to protest against the rampant kidnapping and murders targeting women in Uganda.
At the march, which Global Voices attended, WPWG leader Dr. Stella Nyanzi told the crowd that the women are pursuing key interventions such as justice for the families of those murdered and also to push for action on violence against women. Fellow activist Patricia Twasiima then read out the names of the 42 murdered women.
Earlier, the police had attempted to block the protests claiming that the issues the women were protesting had already been resolved after President Museveni addressed the nation on his 10-point plan for restoring security in Uganda.
A letter from the Commissioner of Police stated: ''This serves to inform you that the intended demonstration to raise awareness, express displeasure about the spate of killings and kidnap of women/girls cannot be allowed to go on as scheduled''.
The women were determined to go on with the protest anyway: ''We will no longer settle for speeches, thought and prayers, from the police force and government funded with taxpayers’ money. Its time for action so join us tomorrow at Centenary Park as we demand for answers to the unanswered questions''.
The attempted ban triggered even more support from Ugandans including journalists who vowed to join, with men and women alike.
Writer Daniel Kalinaki wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Monitor that made rounds on Twitter on why he would be joining the protest:
''So I will be at the march. With my daughter. We will hold hands and walk, unarmed and peacefully, along with others. I want her to love her country and learn, as a young African woman, to stand up and speak up. When she grows up she, and others like her, will be the saviours of the broken, the beaten, and the damned. Welcome to the Black Parade''.
TV journalist Mujuni Raymond said that he would also join the protest: ''Eventually, police gave in to the pressure. The women’s march observed strict guidelines set by the police''.
This is the first peaceful protest led by activists since the passing of the controversial Public Order Management Act 2013, which grants the Police''s Inspector General wide discretion to permit or forbid public gatherings. Past protests since the Act was published have turned violent.
The March wields more pressure on authorities not only to provide a safer society for women but also to uphold Uganda’s constitution and respect citizens’ right to freedom of assembly.
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UN Experts conclude crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Kasai
by OHCHR, Reuters, agencies
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
3 July 2018
Mass rape, cannibalism, dismemberment: UN team finds atrocities in Congo war. (Reuters)
Rebels and government troops in Congo have committed atrocities including mass rape, cannibalism and the dismemberment of civilians, according to testimony published on Tuesday by a team of U.N. human rights experts who said the world must pay heed.
The team investigating a conflict in the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of Congo told the U.N. Human Rights Council last week that they suspected all sides were guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Their detailed 126-page report catalogued gruesome attacks committed in the conflict, which erupted in late 2016, involving the Kamuina Nsapu and Bana Mura militias and Congo''s armed forces, the FARDC.
The testimony included boys being forced to rape their mothers, little girls being told witchcraft would allow them to catch bullets, and women forced to choose gang-rape or death.
"What happened in the Kasai simply beggars description," Congo''s Human Rights Minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa told the Council.
"One victim told us that in May 2017 she saw a group of Kamuina Nsapu militia, some of whom sported female genitals (clitorises and vaginas) as medals," the report said.
"Some witnesses recalled seeing people cutting up, cooking and eating human flesh, including penises cut from men who were still alive and from corpses, especially FARDC, and drinking human blood."
Lead investigator Bacre Waly Ndiaye told the Council that in one incident, at least 186 men and boys from a single village were beheaded by Kamuina Nsapu, many of whose members were children forced to fight, unarmed or wielding sticks, and were convinced that magic had made them invulnerable.
Many such child soldiers were killed when FARDC soldiers machine-gunned them indiscriminately, he said.
"The bodies were often buried in mass graves... or were sometimes piled in trucks by soldiers to be buried elsewhere."
There were initially thought to be about 86 mass graves, but after investigating on the ground the team suspected there may be hundreds, he said.
Mushobekwa said the government had given the UN expert team its cooperation and wanted the truth to come out, but she claimed some of the findings were purportedly "doubtful" because the investigation had been done quickly.. "One thing is absolutely certain. Each element of law enforcement and security forces that is responsible for these crimes will answer for their actions and will be severely punished," she said.
* UN Web TV: Human Rights in Democratic Republic of Congo - 38th Regular Session UN Human Rights Council: http://bit.ly/2KF7p7b http://bit.ly/2KKvCG0
26 June 2018 (OHCHR)
UN Experts conclude crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Kasai, warn against risk of new wave of ethnic violence.
Following its investigation in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Team of International Experts appointed by the Human Rights Council today said it believes a number of the violations perpetrated by the defence and security forces, the Kamuina Nsapu militia and the Bana Mura militias since 2016 constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Congolese defence and security forces, as well as the Kamuina Nsapu militia and the Bana Mura militias deliberately killed civilians, including children, and committed atrocities – such as mutilations, rapes and other forms of sexual violence, torture, and exterminations. The Kamuina Nsapu militia also recruited children, girls and boys.
The Team of International Experts were of the opinion that the attacks were carried out against civilians of several ethnic groups in a generalized and systematic fashion constituting crimes against humanity. Some of the abuses committed could also amount to persecution based on ethnicity. The crimes and destruction continue to take place two years after the conflict began, resulting in the displacement of people, and the enslavement of women.
“We are shocked by this disastrous situation that has claimed the lives of several thousand people and continues to rage in the region, without provoking national or international attention,” said Bacre Waly Ndiaye, President of the Team of International Experts. “It is high time for justice to put an end to impunity if we do not want the ethnic dimension of the conflict to worsen.”
The violence has also resulted in an alarming humanitarian situation, affecting in particular the children in the Kasai region, the Team of International Experts warned. The Kasai crisis has led to the internal displacement of some 1.4 million people who remain in a very precarious situation. Another 35,000 people have fled to Angola. According to the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, about 3.2 million people continue to be severely food insecure, and malnutrition rates, especially for children, are high.
The Team of International Experts demanded that a policy of disarmament of the militias be urgently implemented, along with a reconciliation process to avoid another wave of violence and allow the return of the displaced and refugees. It also made a number of other recommendations.
It emphasized that responsibility to prosecute those guilty of international crimes – and to put an end to the impunity that persists in spite of the gravity and extent of the crimes – lies first and foremost with the Congolese authorities. The Team proposed that the capacity of military investigative entities be built up so that the perpetrators of the international crimes committed in Kasai since 2016 – including by officials in the highest positions – can be investigated and prosecuted. It also called for proper care to be provided to the survivors of rapes and sexual violence.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating the situation in the DRC, has expressed her concern about the acts of violence committed in the Kasai region and that she intends to monitor the situation closely.
Background to the report by the Team of International Experts
Following the upsurge in violence that has swept the Kasai region since 2016, the Human Rights Council unanimously decided on 23 June 2017 to dispatch, as per Resolution 35/33, a Team of International Experts on the situation in Kasai for a period of one year.
The resolution requests that the experts submit a detailed report to the Human Rights Council during the enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation in the Kasai region on 3 July 2018. The report is be available here.
The international experts, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Fatimata M’Baye and Luc Cote, have conducted the investigation independently, in line with international norms. As part of its investigation, the Team has collected information from a variety of sources on the wave of violence, focusing on the most severe and emblematic incidents – violations of the right to life, of physical integrity, including gender-based sexual violence, and violence against children.
The Team interviewed 524 victims, witnesses, alleged perpetrators and other sources. It has reviewed documents, photographs and videos that support the testimony collected.
Children: the main victims
The violence has particularly affected the children of the Kasai region. They have indeed been both the main victims and main actors of the violence. While the United Nations Children’s Fund has said 1,220 boys and 658 girls had been recruited and used as soldiers by the Kamuina Nsapu militia by 30 August 2017, the Team of International Experts believes the numbers are much higher and that the recruitment of children continues. Many children have been kidnapped, injured, mutilated, detained or executed. Some have seen their parents being beaten or decapitated and their mothers raped.
“Many children were forced to fight, sent to the front-line without weapons or with toy guns or traditional weapons, while others were forced to kill and decapitate,” M’Baye said. “You cannot imagine the breadth of the physical and psychological trauma that causes, not to mention the stigma requiring long-term treatment.”
A large number of women were raped – often gang raped or repeatedly raped – in front of their husbands, children or other family members.
Many victims of sexual violence, mostly rape, spoke about the difficulties they face. Beyond the medical and psychological difficulties they endure, survivors end up ostracized by their own families and communities, due to the weight of tradition and the consequent economic and social burden.
The very social fabric of Kasai is therefore affected by the consequences of sexual violence. Most rape survivors are reluctant to speak about the crimes for fear of being stigmatized and because of the pervasive mistrust towards the justice system, the absence of effective remedies, and the ostracism they suffer.
Kasai, one of the five provinces created in 2015 (Kasai, Central Kasai, Oriental Kasai, Lomami, and Sankuru), is one of the least developed regions of the DRC in spite of its rich natural resources. Extreme poverty and chronic under-development persists due to the State’s under-investment in basic services in the region.
One cannot isolate the crisis in the Kasai region from pre-existing local conflicts among customary chiefdoms and over the sharing of land and mineral resources, nor from the ethnic divisions in the territory among Luba, Chokwe and Pende populations.
Kasai, whose people are majority Luba, is traditionally a fiefdom of the main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Development, which explains to some extent the marginalization of the region relative to the rest of the country. The wave of violence in the Kasai region since 2016 has taken place against a context of countrywide tensions surrounding the presidential elections, and customary powers that are closely connected to ethnic identity.
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