A night in the life of a woman in Fizi

She had heard the rumours - the hurried warnings that soldiers were out for revenge. One of their own had been killed

Richard Lee's picture


Strategic communications for WWF

July 6th, 2011

She had heard the rumours - the hurried warnings that soldiers were out for revenge.

One of their own had been killed. Now it was time for the citizens they were meant to be protecting to pay the price.

The soldiers’ currency – murder, rape and pillage. But she had nowhere to go. Alone with her husband she could have left – could have run. But you can’t flee into the forest with seven children in the middle of the night.

And maybe – just maybe – her house was not on the hit-list. But then the rumours turned into terrifying reality. The sound of doors being smashed open. Screams. And the silence as women – just like her – cowered in their mud-brick houses and prayed for the soldiers to choose another door. Any door but hers.

And then a knock. Followed by the crash of a soldier’s boot through her flimsy door. Her children screaming, crying, trying to hide from the men in uniform. The men who’d come to kill their father, rape their mother.

But she did not hide – knowing that she needed to distract them. Give her husband time to climb out of the back window and run for his life into the darkness – knowing his wife was being raped in front of their children as he ran.

Three soldiers brutally, viciously raped her. Then they stole every cent she had and left – to continue their systematic march of terror through the town.

And when the next day finally dawned – traumatized and in searing pain, she waited for her husband to return. The man whose had fathered her seven children. The man who’s life she’d saved. And then reality dawned. He wasn’t coming back.

He’d deserted her during the night to save his skin. Now he had deserted her to save…to save what? His standing in the community? His family’s name?

Raped, robbed and now rejected. All in one night.

But she still had the strength to come forward and tell her tale. To join almost 50 other women from Fizi in testifying against her alleged attackers in a military trial held in a special mobile court in the nearby town of Baraka. Hoping that justice will prevail – and that a blow will be struck against the pervading sense of impunity in eastern Congo.

A blow that will help to end the war on women’s bodies. And save other women from having to survive a night like hers. Richard Lee is the Communications and Campaigns Manager at OSISA and is observing the trials in Baraka, south Kivu. OSISA funds the mobile gender court project


  • 1 Hood Avenue/148 Jan Smuts; Rosebank, GP 2196; South Africa
  • T. +27 (0)11 587 5000
  • F. +27 (0)11 587 5099