Last week authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrested a senior army commander and accused him of leading a mass rape of 67 civilians on New Year’s Day, according to United Nations officials. For more than a decade, militia groups operating in Congo have used rape as a weapon of war, as documented in a Need to Know report with Anneke van Woudenberg last year.
Human rights activists describe this week’s arrest as a small step, but at least a start, toward ending this brutal tactic. Congo is a nation rich in natural resources, including gold, diamonds and coltan, which is used in our cell phones and other electronics. [Need to Know reported on the use of coltan in consumer products last year.]
Conflict over these minerals, as well as fighting over tribal disputes, have left more than 5 million dead since 1998. And news of the rape arrest came as the Congo marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the country’s first democratically elected leader.
We were reminded last week of the assassination by a column in The New York Times called “An assassination’s long shadow,” written by Adam Hochschild. He is author of the acclaimed book, “King Leopold’s Ghost, A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa.” To help us better understand the roots of Congo’s current conflict and why he thinks America has “blood on our hands,” Need to Know’s Alison Stewart sat down with Adam Hochschild in San Francisco.