February 2013 news

DR Congo: M23's Makenga and Runiga factions 'clash'
BBC News

A peace treaty but also more fighting in North Kivu. See BBC News site.

Quaker Congo Partnership
Newsletter No11

As you may have heard in the media, the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been precarious in the last few months.  The people in the Uvira and Abeka area have not been directly affected, but they have been nervous that violence will once again spread to their area and the security situation remains difficult.

The UK committee members of the Quaker Congo Partnership met in November 2012.  The payments to be made to our Congo partners for the first six months of 2013, plus the stipend of our Training and Development Worker were agreed at £11,700, as previously budgeted.  This sum also included an allowance for the bank charges which are made, when the money is transferred.

The Centre Hospitalier in Abeka

The CHA continues to provide health services for the people of Abeka and the surrounding area, covering a population of approximately 50,000 people.  There has recently been renovation work done, to repair storm damage to some buildings.

An unmet need is the provision of a clean water supply. Currently water is obtained by rainwater harvesting and collecting water from Lake Tanganyika (which needs to be purified).  Our Congo partners had hoped to get a clean water supply, funded by an organisation called PROSANI, but unfortunately this did not happen.  Clean water could be obtained by piping from the nearby hills, but it has been costed at £73,000, which is beyond the scope of our fund raising abilities, so at the moment this remains a dream, unless a large NGO can be persuaded to help out.

The Trauma Clinic – Peace Garden

The Trauma Clinic also continues its work.  The concept of trauma is new in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, so the counsellors have needed to carry out an awareness campaign.  Our Training and Development Worker, Maurice Bindende reports that attitudes have changed and people, who were sceptical as to the effectiveness of counselling, are now acknowledging that it has been helpful.  Twenty five people received trauma counselling training during the autumn, at a cost of £1,253.

The twenty seven orphans supported with school fees through the Trauma Clinic have mostly done well in their school grades, with twenty five out of the twenty seven having “passed”.

Some staff at the Trauma Clinic are intending to run a peace education course, using materials sent from the UK by a member of our committee.

The Women’s Micro Credit Scheme

The Women’s Micro Credit Scheme has had a revamp.  The Coordinators have carried out training with both existing recipients of loans and with new ones, to help the women better understand how the scheme should work.  Through this scheme a group of women have been producing mud tiles and bricks for sale locally.

There are approximately thirty seven women currently in receipt of loans. They are mostly in Abeka, but there are also two groups in Uvira.  The women have been encouraged to work in groups for mutual support.

Rape surgeon returns to E. DRCongo

According to the BBC NEWS magazine (19.2.13) Dr Denis Mukwege has returned to Eastern DRCongo. He fled first to Sweden and then to Brussels in 2012  when he and his family were threatened by five armed men as he returned to his home. 

Dr Mukwege and his colleagues had treated some 30,000 rape victims in first Lemere and then Bukavu in N Kivu province, from 2000 onwards.  He realised that rape had become a weapon of war. Women were often raped in public with their families and neighbours forced to watch their torture, which sometimes consisted of bullets being fired on their genitals or chemicals poured on them.  So traumatised were the individuals and their families that they fled their villages leaving their few possessions behind them.  It was, and remains, an effective form of warfare as far as the militias are concerned.  

Dr Mukwege and his colleagues had developed a four-stage form of therapy for the raped women: psychological examination; medical care, possibly involving surgery; nutrition and education; and legal assistance to bring the perpetrators to justice.  

Now women in the area have raised the money for his return flight and, having encouraged him to live in the hospital compound, they act in groups as his security guards. Thus they have enabled him to restart his valuable work.  

Quaker Congo Partnership projects seek to treat the smaller (but still significant) number of rape victims in their area of S Kivu.    Workers from the Trauma Counselling Peace Garden (TCPG) and the CHA hospital in Abeka seek to work together to support raped women.  Where women's injuries are beyond the skills of CHA staff, the women are referred on to one of two bigger hospitals in the area.