Dr. Dennis Mukwege's Speech at the UN, Sept. 2012
at a UN General Assembly side event on sexual violence
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would have liked to begin my speech with the usual formulation, “I have the honor and privilege of taking the floor before you.” Alas! The women victims of sexual violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are in dishonor. I constantly with my own eyes see the vague stare of the elder women, the children, the mothers who are dishonored. Still today, many are subjected to sexual slavery; others are used as a weapon of war. Their organs are exposed to the most heinous abuse, often without access to medical care.
And this has been going on for sixteen years! Sixteen years of wanderings; sixteen years of torture; sixteen years of mutilation; sixteen years of the destruction of women, the only vital Congolese resource; sixteen years of breakdown of an entire society. Certainly your respective countries have done much to address the consequences, and we are very grateful for that.
I would have liked to also say “I have the honor of being part of the international community that you represent here.” but I cannot. How can I say this to you, representatives of the international community, when the international community has shown its fear and lack of courage during these sixteen years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I would have liked to say as well “I have the honor of representing my country,” but I cannot. In fact, how can one be proud of belonging to a nation without defense, left to itself, completely pillaged and powerless in the face of five hundred thousands of its girls raped during sixteen years; six million of its sons and daughters killed during sixteen years without any lasting solution in sight?
No, I do not have the honor, nor the privilege to be here today. My heart is heavy. My honor, it is rather to be with these courageous women victims of sexual violence, these women who resist, these women who despite all remain standing.
Today, thanks to the report by the UN Group of Experts, the Mapping Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, and many other credible reports, no one can continue to hide behind the argument of the complexity of the crisis. We know now the motivations behind this crisis and its different actors. What is missing is the political will.
Excellencies, Ambassadors; it is with great humility that i tell you that we need courage to stop this crisis that has lasted for far too long. Sixteen years is too much. We do not need more proof. We need action, urgent action, to arrest those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to bring them to justice. And justice is not negotiable. We need your unanimous condemnation of the rebel groups who are responsible for these acts. We also need concrete actions with regard to member states of the United Nations who support these barbarities from near or afar.
We are facing a humanitarian emergency that no longer has room for equivocation. All the ingredients are there to put an end to an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war. Congolese women have the right to protection just as all the women on this planet.
Shelving all these credible reports will gravely harm the credibility of the various United Nations resolutions requiring the protection of women in times of conflict and will entirely discredit our dear institution, which is supposed to ensure the non repetition of genocide.
The advances made by our civilization are declining; they are declining through new barbarities that we are seeing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Syria; but also through the deafening silence and the lack of courage of the international community. We cannot silence the truth as it is persistent. We should rather confront it to avoid betraying our ideals.
I have the honor to say that the courage of women victims of sexual violence in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will, in the end, overcome this evil.
Help them restore peace!