On their return from the Congo mission, the members of the association “Les Enfants de Panzi et d’Ailleurs” reviewed the current situation. It was held from the end of February to 10 March 2019 and took part in it. Cathleen de Kerchove Executive Director; Sibylle de Bergeyck Treasurer; prof. Véronique De Keyser (President).
Confronted “”, the honorary European deputy, Professor at the University of Liège and President of the “Children of Panzi and Elsewhere”, Véronique de Keyser returns very affected from South Kivu. She has been working there since 2015 with Dr. Denis Mukwege.
“Never since I started working in the villages around Bukavu have I been so revolted and moved to tears by the tragedy facing the population. We must put words and images on this barbarism. During the ten days I spent there where I met my team of Congolese psychologists, 5 girls were murdered in the village of Katana, about ten kilometres from our site in Kavumo: raped, eviscerated (the vulva scalped and the uterus torn off) abandoned in the forest, they were found dead in the morning. I held in my arms in the hospital a 7-month-old baby girl from another village, sodomized by several militiamen, also left for dead, but who was finally transported to Panzi, as well as another 4-year-old girl, whose guts were exploded by collective penetrations. And at the same time, that week, a sexual assault on a woman, held on the ground, whose clothes were torn off and whose legs were spread in the middle of Bukavu, to the applause of the crowd. The live photos of this attack have been looped on social networks. No rape is commonplace, but what strikes in the violence I mention is the collective, the dehumanization of the victim – like babies who are passed from hand to hand like rag dolls, to be raped in jokes and laughter. It is the zero level of humanity.
Violence is not only in this barbarism, it is also in the conditions of exploitation of the country’s mineral resources, in the contrast between these riches and the absolute poverty of the population. “The new DRC presidency must make the rape of very young children and women a public health problem, as it affects the entire country, and goes beyond a private and charitable response, however powerful it may be”
However, Véronique De Keyser returns from South Kivu with a note of hope. “For the first time in three years, I find that the sixty or so raped girls we have taken care of are doing better, better, and some very well. It’s a long-term job, but seeing them play, laugh, help each other, talk and tell each other that they want to become a police officer or mechanic or teacher later on, it made my heart feel better. They invent a future for themselves. Let’s do everything we can to make it happen! »