Thursday, June 01, 2006
Congo doctor heartened by Americans' response
Thank you all for the tremendous outpouring of emotion, anger, disgust and concern over the unspeakable crimes against women being committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Believe me, it makes my job all the more rewarding when these stories get such a huge response.

Please tune in to Anderson Cooper 360 on Friday at 10 p.m. ET, when my latest story on the crisis will air.

I've been back in touch with Dr. Denis Mukwege Mukengere, the lone physician at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the only center for victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo. He tells me he's been getting hundreds of calls from concerned Americans since our story went out on CNN and CNN.com.

"The response has been amazing," he says. "Americans have opened their hearts and are prepared to open their wallets as well. I'm humbled by their generosity. Whoever once said miracles do come true was right in every sense. God may have closed a door on the women of Congo, but he's opened a window and the sun is shining through."

I'm humbled by the strength of this man, and I'm glad he has a renewed sense of energy. He confirms the number of new patients continues to go up. "Just [Tuesday] we had 15 women arrive, all of them raped and mutilated less than 24 hours before."

I also heard from Marie Walterzon of the Swedish Pentecostal Mission, one of the few NGOs providing some much-needed assistance at Panzi Hospital. "God bless America," she told me.

I seek answers for these barbaric and medieval crimes from Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who rose to power almost by default when his father, Laurent Desire Kabila, was assassinated in an attempted coup in 2001. He is filling the position on a transitional basis.

I want him to see the story we did last week on the victims in Bukavu on the women who were raped and mutilated by soldiers. I hand him headphones and he watches the piece in silence. Occasionally his large, piercing eyes narrow into tiny slits. His jaw tightens when he hears the atrocities his former colleagues are accused of committing.

Kabila asks me to play the piece again. Does he really want to see the piece again? He seems interested, angry, disappointed at the crimes his former colleagues are accused of committing. He watches again, lips pursed, his head shaking every now and then.

He removes the headphones and pauses -- pin-drop silence.

"It's shocking," he finally says. "These kinds of acts are simply unforgivable. I'm not saying it's anything new. It's just shocking when you hear their terrible stories. These are innocent victims being terrorized by soldiers. This is not right. This has got to change."

I'm determined to get more answers for my story. "Mr. President, you have a six-year-old daughter, a twin sister, a mother. What if this happened to them? What would you do?"

He stares at me for an eternity then says, "You definitely have my answer right there, you definitely have my answer."

I press on.

"Isn't it shameful that men in uniform in your country are allowed to perpetrate such atrocities with such impunity?" I ask.

"It's shameful that soldiers anywhere are allowed to do such things," he says. "That's why I want to be president [on a permanent basis]. I want to change this. I want to make security one of my first priorities so that these and other acts come to an end once and for all."

If you would like to help, please contact:

The Swedish Pentecostal Mission -- PMU
Contact person: Marie Walterzon
Telephone in Congo: 011-243-81-318-6246
E-mail: vsvbukavu@kivu.on-line.com

Tearfund
Contact person: Tilly Leuring
Telephone in Congo: 011-243-997-089-850
E-mail: dmt-drc-pd@tearfund.org

Dr. Denis Mukwege Mukengere
E-mail: denismukwege@hotmail.com
Posted By Jeff Koinange, CNN Africa Correspondent: 5:41 PM ET
  36 Comments
Jeff, my heart goes out to you as you continue to cover such a heartbreaking story. I saw many comments on your previous post where people said that obviously there is no God because these things wouldn't be happening. I understand the sentiment but don't believe it.

You're doing a tremendously brave thing. These women deserve better at the hands of their government and at the hands of the global community. These are my sisters, each of them, and I pray that God continues to open eyes and hearts to this terrible truth.
Posted By Anonymous Rhonda, Chapel Hill, NC : 6:10 PM ET
My heart breaks for the victims of these unthinkable crimes. Not only were they violently tortured, they were also robbed of their spirit.

I am saddened that Dr. Mukengere is the sole medical expert trying to help these women. He obviously has much more courage than most.

We can only hope that the political tide will change after the upcoming election. Personally, I am dubious.

Ultimately, these women will be never be the same. I hope that this story will prompt other people and NGOs to get involved.

Thanks to the reporters who have the heart and compassion to report these events and to advocate change, when so few others take notice.
Posted By Anonymous Harriet, Spartanburg SC : 6:32 PM ET
Thank YOU,Jeff..Most of us lead busy lives and I must admit, I probably would not have heard about this horror if I hadn't taken the time to read your piece and watch AC360...Thank You..I hope we can help..I can't say I didn't know..You've told us..Now hopefully, actions will speak louder than words..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 7:04 PM ET
Thank you, Jeff, for stirring us up in such a real, compassionate way. Your follow-through...showing us the spark of hope ignited in the hearts of these amazing people...shows your true depth and nature as going beyond the story into actual humanity. That quality is not often associated with the media, who can photograph a starving child crawling to a UNICEF aide station, only to be left to die after the photo's snapped.
Keep typing, and please, don't stop caring.
Posted By Anonymous Anne Brown, Jacksonville, FL : 7:06 PM ET
Having worked in eastern Congo for over four of the past seven years, I can relate to the scenes described in this article. But unless President Kabila has had a total change of heart, I doubt he will do much to stop the atrocities against women.
Posted By Anonymous Steve Marshall Warrenton, Virginia : 7:17 PM ET
I commend you on your story and for bringing light to this horrific situation. One could only wish that we'd done it sooner.
Posted By Anonymous Anna, Spartanburg SC : 7:17 PM ET
What an unbelievable and horrific tragedy. It does not surprise me though. Not a lot of these atrocities surprise me anymore, they simply saddened and devaste me down to my core. Although I support NGO's in the area to help these women, the rapes, mutilations, and deaths continue. There is only so much small NGO's can do and the wealthy nations of the world should wake up and start helping more.
These stories are all too familiar in the Congo and other countries in Africa and around the world. I'm glad that Jeff Koinage is getting the word out. He is a remarkable correspondant and human being who has covered these stories more than anyone I've followed. Thank you for your courage and humanity Mr. Koinage. Please stay vigilant and hopefully, someday soon, all your hard work bringing these atrocities and genocides to the forefront will wake up the rest of the world.......
Posted By Anonymous Camille Wyatt, Raleigh,North Carolina : 2:07 AM ET
I hope that President Kabila really will take decisive action, but I think that realistically, unless the international community steps in and persistently demands that women and children throughout Africa be treated with respect and dignity, nothing will change either in the Congo or in other African countries where rape statistics are high.

There is a terribly chauvanist attitude in Africa (I'm originally from South Africa and grew up with the chauvanism) towards women and our role in life. If it is not made crystal clear that this attitude is not only unacceptable, but that assault, rape, etc is severely punishable, things will continue as they are and good people such as the victims and Doctor Mukengere will continue to be overwhelmed and outnumbered.
Posted By Anonymous Nikky, London, UK : 7:08 AM ET
I have been reading about the atrocities committed against the women in the Congo for months. In addition to the articles from CNN, this has been the topic of discussion on a number of talk shows. Early in 2005 Oprah�s magazine wrote an article about it and did a postcard campaign.

How could their own president be so unaware of what�s been going on under his very nose? I don�t believe him. I don't believe anything he says. He does not care about those women.
Posted By Anonymous Sue ZQ, Dayton, OH : 12:22 PM ET
African leaders must stand for their people than for the rapists and committers of crimes. Soldiers who commit crimes should not be allowed to join the army .All African leaders must commit to this that those who commit crimes against women and children cannot hide behind any government.
Posted By Anonymous John, Toronto , ON : 12:32 PM ET
Thank you so very much for your eye opening reporting. People think we have trouble here in the United States. It doesn't compare to what the women and children are going through. I would like to know if any of these children would be able to get adopted. My family would be very interested.

Toni Stevens Allen Texas
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 12:50 PM ET
Jeff, thank you SO much for posting the contact information at the bottom of the article.

Also, thank you for continuing to report on this story. I am not entirely convinced by President Kabila's response, though I am glad you had the opportunity to show him the report. But if he hasn't been able to effect any very noticeable changes during his interim period, what difference will his election make? And his response to your question, "What would you do?" is unsatisfactory in the extreme. An eternal, silent stare is not enough, and hardly an answer.

So please keep pressing for those answers, Jeff. I am glad you are at work on this story. Thank you for writing. Please continue to do so. I am praying, and so, I'm sure, are many others. But we also want to act; to help in practical ways as best we can. So please keep us informed as to how we can do that, too, as much as possible.

God bless you.
Posted By Anonymous Grace Farag, Los Angeles, CA : 1:01 PM ET
I would wish that God be with you on this mission, but can there be a god when these things occur on a daily basis. Have occured regularly for the length of human existance. I would rather say, you have the support and admiration of all who aspire to be a decent and civilized human.
Posted By Anonymous Alison, Miami, FL : 1:13 PM ET
Thank you for opening people's eyes to the tragedy that is taking place. My parents last April adopted a wonderful 8 year old little girl from the Congo. She is doing wonderful now in the U.S. More people need to know about the atrocities that are taking place.
Posted By Anonymous Dion, Cleveland , Ohio : 1:28 PM ET
Thank you for making us aware of such horrors, we want to help we will help
in this such HECTIC world we live in we sometimes do not realize such horrors can occur to women just like me
Posted By Anonymous Yvonne Valentine, Miami beach, FL : 1:47 PM ET
I have to say I agree with Steve Marshall of Warrenton, VA. President Kabila has been there his whole life, has been in the military, has been the president for the past 5 years and has choose to ignore it. Why does President Kabila think we, United States citizens, should believe that he will make things change. He hasn't thus far.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Gie, Speedway, Indiana : 2:05 PM ET
It is so sad to see and hear of the atrocities man inflicts on fellow man. Brave men and women report on these situations but alas it seems action is very slow if non existent in coming. Personally I am sick and tired of the blame God excuse. God gave us dominion over this world and told us how to live and get along in peace with each other. It is not His fault people don't want to, but of course he also warned us that lawlessness will grow worse. The non responsibility mentality has taken over mankind. (Its not my fault I got drunk and killed someone, its the person who sold me the booze). Without hope, without God, you see how far man begins to sink. A law unto themselves. God comfort those woman and may His hand be upon them and His angels be encamped about them.
Posted By Anonymous Eric, Windsor, Ontario,Canada : 2:45 PM ET
I would only hope that donations for this cause are monitored. With the Nigerian 419 scams that are perpatrated abunduntly in recent years, hopefully a credible organization can step up and initiate some positive change and human rights protections.
Posted By Anonymous Will, Sacramento, CA : 2:46 PM ET
Thank you Jeff and please continue to cover this heartbreaking, horrific story so that we may all send help to these brave women and this wonderful doctor. You are doing a service to humanity and I commend you for this.
Posted By Anonymous Frances E. Hollick, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania : 2:53 PM ET
Jeff,

That was a great question to ask the President. How often these powerful rulers forget. . .people are what makes a country powerful and amazing. Well, pretty soon he will have killed off all the beauty of his power and will be left with nothing.

Thank you for the article. I think America needs to be reminded that we are not the only ones that occupy the earth. Almost one hundred years ago, people walked thousands of miles for freedom. Now the questionis still there. How far are we willing to walk for freedom and justice?

Once again, keep up the good work.
Posted By Anonymous Wu Mei Fung Redlands, CA : 3:04 PM ET
Dear Sir,

I would like to sincerely thank you and Anderson Cooper for finally bringing the congolese tragedy before the international community. Thanks for your reports. I hope future reports will courageously tackle the in-depth reasons for the death and massacres of Congolese women, men, and children. I hope that through your in-depth analyses the sources of these genocidal acts will be exposed because the Congo is need of justice.

Thanks.

Ngwarsungu Chiwengo
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 3:31 PM ET
Thank you for brining awareness to this attrocity. I'm speechless and bought to tears reading the stories. They make our complaints about the price of gas seem so trivial, because they are just that. While our president and Congress are sprinkling freedom dust on a country that obviously does not want us there, as evidenced by the 16 deaths that occured in less than 24 hours after the president urged us to continue having faith, these women and children are facing attrocities that which no human or animal should endure. We are worried about the Mexicans taking over and expending National Guard to our borders, while women and children are being viciously raped and mutilated. Where are the priorities of this country? Lets actually help a country that is in dire need of our help and get out of those that don't want us there.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills CA : 3:44 PM ET
This problem needs the involvement of governments around the world. It's a scar on the conscience of every nation to allow these atrocities to continue. NGOs, with their limited resources, can only do so much. And when politics trumps human life, we are all worse for it.
Posted By Anonymous Suma, Laurel, Maryland : 3:58 PM ET
I am curious why you didn't ask him why he hasn't done anything about it thus far. Why would he need to wait for an election to do something about "his" troops? He is the President right so it would seem he has the power to get the situation corrected.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Chicago, IL : 4:01 PM ET
I can't believe such sickness is being allowed. I am praying that this acting president does follow through with measures to stop the soldiers and bring them to justice.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara, Midland, Texas : 4:03 PM ET
Jeff, Thank You so much for the outstanding job you are doing by finally shedding light on atrocities being perpetrated on my sisters and grand-mothers in the Eastern Congo.

Being myself from the DRC and right from the war-torn region, I cannot comprehend how the "parachuted" President Joseph Kabila dare to say that he was not aware of what was happening in the region?

Jeff, keep up with the excellent job and please extend my gratitude to Anderson for continuing to ask Joseph Kabila tough questions.

It's time for the DRC to make the headlines. Thank you, CNN, for taking on this abominable issue. What the world knows so far about the DRC is just the tip of a gigantic iceberg of pains and pains and suffering.
Posted By Anonymous Alain, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : 12:11 PM ET
what a heartbreaking story of the women and children of the congo...it made me cry...
I wish we could send american troops over to end the volence!!!

Please keep this in the news!! the more we hear of these storys the more help will come!!
god bless all the people that are involved to help the women and children.
thank you for reading my email
Posted By Anonymous juanita mawhinney Roseville, California 95678 : 6:21 PM ET
I can't believe that this is still going on! Is the United N ations aware of this? What about the U.S or other countries? What can be done to stop this horrible crime?
Posted By Anonymous Ruth- Hialeah, Florida : 9:15 PM ET
Thank you so much for your part in making everyone aware of this horrible situation going on in Congo. The stories the people shared were very, very heartbreaking! I could never imagine why people in general would want to commit such crimes towards one another. The fact that these men were born by women, and they would go out and do such horrible acts....it is sickening.

The nerve of the president to say he had no idea of what was going on...I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT! I have so much I would like to vent off about regarding him, but I will not do so.

My heart and prayers goes out to those people over there and I just hope they stay strong, relief is coming soon.
Posted By Anonymous C. Johnson, Montgomery, AL : 11:35 PM ET
You opened the eyes of a 16 year old girl, thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Alexis Proctor, Vermont. : 8:25 AM ET
You say many are opening their wallets after this story. Where will that money end up? Doubtful that it will be used to help those women. It would be a REAL shame for it to benefit those who are committing these crimes. Who handles the charitable donations and ensures the money ends up where it should?
Posted By Anonymous Shera, Atlanta, Ga. : 9:39 AM ET
I, along with a few others, emailed Dr. Mukwege to ask how we could help. We have decided to work together and have created an e-group for those who want to join us in trying to make a difference:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/womenofcongo/

You can join via the website or by just sending an email to:
womenofcongo-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Namaste.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, San Francisco, CA : 3:27 PM ET
It's such a relief to hear that America is responding to these awful crimes that are being committed in the Congo. It's hard to imagine the feelings of helplessness that those people have. Instances like these deserve global efforts and we're very fortunate to have journalists that dig into these heart-breaking stories and report to the world what's going on.
Posted By Anonymous Amber, Salt Lake City, UT : 8:39 PM ET
As a young Congolese person living in the heartland of the US, I am heartened by much of the expression of grief, and anger, and concern, after Jeff's story. As a Congolese, I am also impressed with Jeff's guts to be asking the questions so boldly, in an environment where people disappear very easily... I guess it is not so easy to make a CNN top man disappear that easily.

But what I am hoping for, now, is that the journalist in Hotel Rwanda was wrong: that people will not just see this, feel sorry for the Congolese people for a little while, and go back to their dinners, with everything forgotten. I am hoping that Jeff's story caught people's attention strongly enough to overcome the barrier of the legendary short attention span of our American brethren.

I am also hoping that President Kabila was being sincere, and that he is not, like Mobutu was, so detached from the real world that he sees it only through a smoke screen of greedy and ill-intentioned advisors, hellbent on letting the status-quo surmise, maybe to buy them a few more days/months in office, in case Kabila lost in the elections...

Finally I am hoping that the people of the developped world realize the price the developping countries often have to pay, for the developped's comforts and convenience; that people understand that we live in an inter-connected world, and a world of causes and effects.

Congo's history has been a neverending series of hard and debilitating blows, for 46 years, often with the tacit blessing of the likes of France, Belgium, and the USA. In my short lifetime, I and/or my family have lived/witnessed/brought to light/protested these atrocities for 10 years. This is simply the aftermath, the ripple effect. The world failed my people. I am just hoping it does not fail the damage control...
Posted By Anonymous Ali Mamina, Richmond, IN : 8:58 AM ET
I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched the story unfold on tv. My wife and I work on the Congo border and what was reported is not the worst. There have been so many women raped, tortured and abused. As an American missionary I have felt frustrated that so little attention has been given to such a terrible war. I have friends who have "lost" more than fifty family members!
I am so encouraged to see that people care. Anderson cooper and Jeff Koinange if you ever come to Fort Portal Uganda you are welcome at my home.
Thank you for sharing this story.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff Cash Fort Portal, Uganda : 11:29 PM ET
Thank you for sharing these stories of these brave women. Their stories really shook me and I am shocked that we as humans can be so hateful to one another.
The world needs to know what is going on outside of our homes and miles away. In the hopes that this brutality will come to an end and these victims can recover in both body and spirit.
Posted By Anonymous Katey Z, Tampa FL : 5:40 PM ET
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