When do you understand that rape is a generalized weapon of war?
I had worked in the region (1) for fifteen years as an obstetrician-gynecologist. When I see the first injuries to women who have a history of extreme rape, I do not grasp it. I think it’s the work of the sick, the mad. Their brutality goes so far as to destroy the female genitals. But the number of cases increased every month. The story of these women reflected a method. I saw villages where all the women had been raped in one night. Rape as a weapon.
A weapon of social destruction …
We are talking about rapes committed in public, gang rapes, babies where children are forced to rape their parents and vice versa. They tend to destroy individual identity first. And the relationships that make that in a society everyone has a role. People lose their identity in this act and the accumulation causes loss of societal identity. Socio-established norms coincide with social cohesion. When you succeed in disrupting a community, it becomes easy to subdue it. It’s strategic.
Is rape here also the symbolic destruction of the human matrix?
Not just symbolic. When one has raped a woman, shoots at the genitals, put caustic soda, hot melted plastic when reaching motherhood. This is done to reduce the population demographically. The consequences are the same as classic wars with cheaper weapons. Gang rape infects women with diseases, it also reduces demographics. It is not a sexual act of impulse, but of war, to destroy.
Do you maintain faith in humanity?
How can one not believe in man? I see, for example, the mobilization of the West in the face of the suffering of the Ukrainian people, which is moving us all. I am impressed by this division of humanity, the consequent sanctions. There is a humanitarian momentum. If the world wants, it can impose peace, oppose barbarism. The example of Ukraine gives me confidence in humanity.
The mapping project (2) has documented 617 crimes in the DRC, identified perpetrators, but it is buried. Are we witnessing a hierarchy of suffering?
The example of mobilization for Ukraine must be appreciated, but the response to suffering must not be selective. Humanism should not be variable geometry. It can not be discriminatory when humanity suffers.
Does what you see make you traumatized too?
When you treat a mother, when you give birth to her child as a result of the rape, and when you also treat this child for the same extreme violence a few years later, it is a trauma. You no longer have the language, you no longer know what to say to the victim. This is the consequence of the lack of use of existing legal tools. I have been fighting for ten years for justice for the victims. They have the right to truth, memory, compensation and guarantees of non-repetition. Impunity makes it possible to perpetuate crimes.
I am recording this interview with a smartphone: this object connects me to the accident of Congolese women …
Congo is full of strategic minerals. They allow us to have our smartphones, our laptops … There is no battery without these minerals: cobalt, coltan, tungsten … The war we are going through is not ethnic, as its initiators say, but economic to to control these deposits, plunder them. It makes us all complicit in this suffering. The ore to our phones is made by shedding blood from innocent women who rape children.
You disrupt these interests and question the order of a world under the rule of men: this has given you two assassination attempts …
This dominion goes through the destruction of woman, materialized, objectified. We destroy it to destroy society. Opposing the weapon of rape, condemning it, telling the truth, seeking justice, raises daily threats. I live under the protection of the UN, in my own country. I have to stay in the hospital, with the sick. It’s a choice I’ve made. These women I had tried to leave them, but by their actions they brought me back to reason.
Did you go into exile after an assassination attempt?
Yes. But these women, who live on less than $ 1 a day, tried to pay for my Boston / Bukavu plane ticket. Every Friday, they sold the vegetables and fruits they produced and deposited $ 50 each week to raise the amount. Women who come from rural areas, without much intellectual education, but determined and brave. They demonstrated every Friday at the entrance to the hospital. It made me sad.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
I believe that in our society we accept concepts like patriarchy that lead to inequality and suffering. I am in favor of positive masculinity. Against the poisonous one that makes little boys grow up believing they are superior to their sisters.
Is your struggle also cultural?
When these women are asked what compensation they expect, they talk about gratitude. It is not a material request, but a symbolic one. Educating their children to guarantee their future: this is the compensation they want. Many of them say they went through all of this because they lacked education. They want to protect their children from it.
And God in all that you priest. Are you in doubt?
I believe in a God who is just, who gives me freedom of choice. If we make a bad choice, the responsibility does not belong to God. The god I believe in is not a dictator.
(1) Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.