At a makeshift courtroom in the lakeside Congo village of Baraka, a military judge delivered justice this week for the women of South Kivu Province.
Lieutenant Colonel Mutuare Daniel Kibibi received 20 years of hard time for inciting the mass rape of village women by his troops earlier this year. The somber faced Kibibi was taken away in handcuffs amidst hundreds of witnesses who gave the departing officer a piece of their mind.
Kibibi had turned his men on the village just after New Year’s in retaliation for the death of a soldier. His marauding troops smashed down doors and went house-to-house, pillaging, beating and raping for an entire night, from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day, witnesses said.
Activists hope this will be the first strike against soldier-rapists who act with impunity, unpunished for despicable crimes that are wellknown to local leaders and the international community.
“The untouchable has been touched,” Therese Kulungu, the lawyer representing the victims, told Reuters. Compensation was promised to the 49 women who testified and face “humiliation, degradation of their health, social stigmatization, risk of divorce and possibility of HIV,” presiding judge Col. Fredy Mukendi said.
The mobile court was paid for by the Open Society Initiative and other agencies, including the American Bar Association, Lawyers Without Borders and the U.N. Mission to Congo.