Congolese women stage protest against fighters

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Women have gathered in number in Eastern Congo to protest against the fighting that has made life in the region a living hell. The demonstrators sang and chanted in Swahili saying, ‘God take care of us, we are tired.’

The women in their hundreds are marching all over the eastern city of Goma demanding peace and protection. The women say they gather together to cry and to ask for peace because their children are sick, starving, lost or dead. They also said they were being raped by rebel fighters, as well as army and police forces.

According to the spokesman for the charity ActionAid, the high incidence of rape sometimes resulted in offspring known as the children of war. The husbands of the rape victims were often killed just so the rebels could have their way with the women. “Enough is enough, we are tired,’ they say.

The recent fighting that escalated around the end of August has displaced around 250,000 people, despite the presence of the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world. Soldiers and rebels are guarding a tense front line in Goma, raising fears that fighting would resume, despite a ceasefire call.

General Laurent Nkunda says he is fighting because the Congolese government has not done enough to protect his minority Tutsi ethnic group from Hutu militias.

In addition to violence, women are dealing with food shortages and disease. Around 1,000 cases of cholera have been reported since October, the World Health Organization warned.

The Congolese women say they are ready to march to the rebel camps and cry and protest the Hutu-Tutsi clashes, to demand peace, reconciliation and protection.

The Hutu fighters have lived in eastern DR Congo since 1994 and have been a key factor in destabilizing the region while rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has made the disarmament of the Hutu forces a key demand to halting his rebellion.

However, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to co-operate to deal with forces along their common border blamed for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Both countries’ foreign ministers said Rwandan intelligence teams would go into DR Congo to help eradicate them.

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