I was (still am) an idealistic person, wanting do to something meaningful in her life. Ambitions mixed with naiveness, brought me to the DRC working for the local NGO, GAD. The bits and pieces I had of information about this African country was far enough to prepare me for what I was about to encounter.
To commemorate the UNs internatinal day of victims of enforced disappearance, I`ve translated a blogpost I wrote on my personal Norwegian blog a couple of years ago.
GAD works in Mambasa, documenting rape cases and kidnapping. The GAD office is a safe place, where women and girls can come and share their stories with each other. The office is a place where they can be heard and not run the risk of being stigmatized, like in the rest of the community. GAD would document their stories and give them to the local UN-office,an assignment I sometimes was put to do.
One of my most vivid encounters was with a young girl named, Je t´aime Patrice. I love you Patrice.
I met her the 14th of February. She was fifteen years old, from North-Kivu. Last winter she was kidnapped by the rebel group Morgan, while she was on her way to get water from the well. It’s a long walk on a deserted road. They came in the twilight and dragged her along into bush. One of the rebels took her as a wife. There she was together with fourteen other kidnapped girls. These are her words:
«They’ll have sex with you whenever they want. They go around naked and they’re always on the move. If they see a woman walking by herself with groceries or water from the well, they will take her. Sometimes they raid homes. Husbands witness the wife being raped before they kill him in front of her eyes. Once I saw ten men raping one woman, one at a time, she recalls. They don’t mind using violence either, beating her if she resists. They worship evil, they’re satanists. Occult activities are normal with the rapes and beatings. Sometimes human sacrifices are done»
Even though the girls are prisoners, they are free to move around unsupervised, often going to nearby streams to wash the rebels clothes. Escaping through the massive jungle of Mambasa runs an even higher risk than staying with the rebels.
Je t´aime Patrice spent nine months together with the rebels and the fourteen women until she one day by chance encountered someone from the Congolese army, maybe a ranger doing reconnaissance work, who knows. He helped her and the some of the girls back to the city Mambasa and urged them to report the crimes.
When Je t´aime Patrice came to Mambasa, she met a fourty year old man who wanted to marry her. She knew nobody in town, she had no clothes, nothing. Her parents probably thought she was dead and they were miles away. What could she do, but to say yes?
As Je t´aime Patrice walks out the door of the GAD-office, she asks us if we could free five girls from the prison in Bunia. When they came to Mambasa they went to the police and reported the rebels but the police accused them of being spies for the rebels.
I hope you are doing well I love you Patricia and have found someone who do love you, because you have experienced of anything but love.