Heart of Darkness: Women of Shabunda

Despite the horrors they have experienced, many women in Shabunda are willing to speak out frankly in order to bring attention and humanitarian aid to their community. As one said: "We have had hardships, and we want to let everyone know what we've gone through. We want them to know what is in our hearts and what happened. You can't keep a secret like this."

(Interviews conducted through a translator)

Ted Koppel: I would like any one of them to tell me what has happened to the women here. First woman: We really had some serious hardships, all of the women of Shabunda.

TK : What kind of difficulties? First woman: All the women from Shabunda were attacked by the Mai-Mais, they plundered our homes, they beat us, they raped us, and they hurt women.

TK: What happened to each of them?

Second woman: I was the commander's woman and 30 men violated me, as young as I am. At my young age, I don't have the strength to go with 30 men. It's very difficult.

TK: Is her husband still alive? Second woman: I wasn't married. I am still a student.

TK: So he was not her husband, he took her? Second woman: He took me by force.

TK: But why if he took her to be his wife, did he allow all those other men to rape her? Second woman: This is their system. They take one woman and share her among themselves.

TK: Is this done in the open or do they do go somewhere private? Second woman: In the open.

TK: Please tell her to forgive me, I know these are painful questions, but each time did she have to be forced to have sexual relations with him, or after a while did she just give in? Second woman: They forced me, I never gave in. I was with my husband when they came to get me. They took me, they raped me to the point of tearing my genitals.

TK: Do you know why they did that? Third woman: They just raped me, just to have sex. As they raped me, they tore me all the way to the back.

TK: How many men had relations with her? Third woman: Seven big men.

TK: Her husband, is he still alive? Third woman: He was alive when they took him. I have no idea where he is.

TK: Will it ever be possible for her to have a normal family again? Third woman: I don't think so. Who would want me again?

TK: What about this woman in the center, is she married? First woman: For me, the Mai-Mai people took me, they raped me, they even took a banana and raped me with it.

TK: Why are they so cruel, why do they take such pleasure in hurting these women? First woman: They just enjoyed raping me, and then after that my husband left me because he thought I brought home microbes.

TK: So he is afraid she is carrying a disease now? First woman: Yes, he is scared I brought home a disease. That's why we're asking you as fathers, as white men, please help us. Without peace there is nothing, with such chaos we need peace. Please help us, all women of Shabunda, we're asking you to help us, you're our fathers. We're crying to you, all our clothes, medicine, everything, all the material stuff was plundered, please help us. Even if it's with building material. A lot of our children are still in the forest, we are in hardship. Even though my husband took me home, I'm just there. He's already taken another wife. So I'm just there. I don't know what to do, should I go, should I stay, what if the disease is spreading?

TK: Is she still able to live in the same home with him? And the other wife? First woman: Yes we're in the same house.

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