Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

If you missed it on Radio 4’s Today programme on April 10th, you should listen to this very moving and upsetting interview with Zawadi Mongane, a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who suffered appalling violence by the Interahamwe who killed her family, gang raped her and forced her to kill her own baby. Even the woman translating sounds like she can’t believe what she is hearing.

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When Zawadi’s interview was broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme and on the BBC’s World Service, the response was extraordinary. Numerous people wrote and emailed to express their outrage at what they had heard. Many also wanted to help, to do something. Months later enquiries were still coming in.

What, people wanted to know, had since happened to Zawadi and her only remaining child?

I returned to find out at the end of March this year. Many weeks of phone calls to charities in eastern DR Congo yielded nothing about Zawadi’s fate. Neither did initial enquiries to the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu where I first met her.

But finally, after a lengthy visit to the hospital one of the managers there made a breakthrough. He had received information, he told me, that Zawadi had not gone back to her home village but is living in a suburb of Bukavu.

I found her sitting listlessly in a small shack without electricity in an extremely run down suburb. Physically, she looked much improved on the distraught and tearful figure I met in April last year. Mentally though, it was a different story.

Throughout most of the interview Zawadi’s eyes stared straight ahead, rarely looking at me. Her face remained rigid and set even when cuddling her five-year-old daughter, Reponse, who is the only other surviving member of her immediate family.

“I wish they had killed me to that day,” she muttered.

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