A crowd of Congolese government officials and dignitaries got a double-barreled dose of news about rape in the eastern provinces last month when Lisa Jackson’s hard-hitting documentary, “The Greatest Silence: Rape In The Congo,” ended a world tour with a special screening before the Congolese National Assembly in Kinshasa. After the film, an audience of more than 600 politicians, diplomats, and dignitaries heard rape victim Marie Jeanne M’bsweshe plead with them to “get rid of the bandits” that make life hell for women in eastern Congo.
This extraordinary event took place in the National Assembly Hall in front of an audience that included Vital Kamerhe, President of the National Assembly, Kengo Wa Dondo, the President of the Senate, Deputy Prime Minister Nzanga Mobutu, the new Gender Minister, Marie Ange Lukiana Mufankolo and hundreds of other parliamentarians, ministers, dignitaries and members of the international community. The event was organized under the auspices the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Madame M’Bweshe pointed to the machete scar on her forehead, to the teeth bashed out by her rapists, and described her husband’s murder and her own torture and rape in gut-wrenching detail. National Assembly President Vital Kamerhe congratulated the woman for standing up and being so forceful and brave. He added,
“The title of this film ‘The Greatest Silence’ is quite evocative because I am sure that at the end of its screening the conscience of each of us will be touched and we will decide to stand together, particularly we men, in order to put an end to sexual violence against women. From this very moment, we ought to be able to say, ‘Never again!'”
The film, produced and directed by Lisa F. Jackson, won a Special Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast in the US on HBO in April and has been seen by audiences in over 50 countries. It inspired a UN Security Counsel resolution, opened a US Senate hearing, and has been screened in the British House of Commons, the International Criminal Court and the US Department of State.
I’ve seen the film and written about it several times. I’ll be attending a special screening sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations next week in New York.