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Systemic Rape, Fighting Threaten Congo’s Future

Secretary of State Clinton condemned sexual abuse by Congolese soldiers and rebels against civilians. A women's rights advocate describes the scope of the atrocities.

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    During Secretary of State Clinton's trip to the region today, she met with refugees and victims of rape. She told Congolese President Joseph Kabila there should be "no impunity for sexual and gender-based violence."

    Later, she spoke to reporters.

    HILLARY CLINTON, secretary of state: I have just come from a meeting with two survivors of sexual attacks. The atrocities that these women have suffered, which stand for the atrocities that so many have suffered, the United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. And we state to the world that those who attack civilian populations using systematic rape are guilty of crimes against humanity.


    For more on the conflict, we talk to Zainab Salbi, the founder and CEO of Women for Women International, an organization that aids women in conflict zones. She's a frequent visitor to Congo.

    Ms. Salbi, welcome. The United Nations has called the Eastern Congo the rape capital of the world. Explain what that means.

    ZAINAB SALBI, Women for Women International: Congo has one of the worst cases in terms of rape since World War II, where 900,000 German women were raped, and since the genocide of Rwanda, where more than 500,000 women were raped.

    In Congo, we have hundreds of thousands of women who are taken as sexual slaves, where they are raped as frequently as possible by rebel and soldiers and where they are forced to clean and cook and carry their ammunition and food for free, or as a slave.

    Rape is happening on a public level in front of husbands, in front of fathers, where they are forced to see the rape of their mothers and their daughters. And it's happening in public level in front of the whole community, particularly vis-a-vis respected members of the community, such as teachers. It is one of the worst cases where rape has been utilized as a weapon of force.