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Caddy Adzuba

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2014

It is with profound gratitude and great humility that I stand here before you today to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Through this prestigious award you have chosen to recognize the peaceful work of the fight against sexual violence suffered by women in times of war in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the war on poverty. Honourable members of the Jury, please accept our sincere gratitude for this distinction.

In all humility, it is a great honour bestowed upon my person. I would have wished this honour to have been paid to the thousands of Congolese women, victims of war and sexual violence devoid of all honour ever since their bodies were turned into battlefields.

I also wish to share this honour with female activists worldwide and especially with those of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who fight day and night to defend human rights, with the sole aim of achieving justice.

Your Majesties, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, Congolese women who have been victims of armed conflict, who have suffered violence and rape, have lost all dignity and honour. These women, whose genitals have been subjected to the vilest of assaults, who have been forced into sexual slavery and have been rejected by their own community, have suffered for 18 years.

18 years of torture, 18 years of devastation, 18 years of aimless flight and displacement, 18 years of extreme poverty.

The children born of this atrocity of sexual slavery in times of war are themselves victims of rape when they are young girls, or forcibly recruited into armed gangs when they are young boys: a vicious circle of suffering and desolation that directly jeopardizes the future of the Congolese nation, with its thousands of unschooled children traumatized by the horrors of war.

Your Majesties, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an open secret. Several reports from international NGOs and UN experts have denounced the organized, premeditated slaughter in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Various peace meetings and the signing of peace agreements between the Congolese government and the warring parties led us to believe, at one point, in an imminent end to the conflict. Sadly, however, women are still being raped, children are still being forcibly recruited into armed factions, families are aimlessly treading the path of exile, entire villages are being burned to the ground, people’s belongings are still being looted.

No, our war has not finished. We are at war. A war that has been deliberately relegated to obscurity.

What is the reason for this war? What is the reason for the suffering of these raped women? Are peace and human dignity a luxury for poor women? Are these women condemned to suffer the horrors of a war they have not schemed?

Your Majesties, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

These questions concern each and every one of us here present. The causes of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are many. Those responsible for the conflict, whether directly or indirectly, have been identified and their role documented in the reports I mentioned earlier. It follows from these reports that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a victim of the immense wealth of its subsoil. Allow me to bring to account here certain multinational companies which, in the pursuit of their own interests, have contributed to plunging this great and beautiful country, the Congo, into a sea of blood and fire, taking the lives of more than 6 million people and depriving more than 500,000 women who have suffered rape of their dignity and honour.

Your Majesties, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

For how long we will continue to ignore the pain of women who have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Congolese women, with ravaged bodies and souls, demand justice and reparation; they demand that the indirect authors hiding in the shadows be pursued along with the material authors. It is proper and fair that those who fund and sustain this horror for economic reasons should be brought to account for their actions.

Spain, one of the few European countries that have experienced the horrors of dictatorship in the recent past and which, in such a short period of time, has managed to construct a country of human rights, a country in which women’s rights are respected on a national and international scale, a haven of peace, a country of justice… Spain –as I was saying– will know how you use all its weight to exert pressure before the international community in favour of these Congolese women, whose only desire is to be able to live in peace in their country and satisfy their children’s needs. This justice requires strong, competent institutions. We therefore suggest that an International Criminal Tribunal (ICT) be created for the Democratic Republic of Congo like the one created for Rwanda so that the crimes committed against Congolese women in these last 18 years do not go unpunished and, at the same time, to reinforce the mandate of the International Criminal Court.

Your Majesties, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prestigious 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord with which you have honoured us constitutes a magnificent opportunity for us to spread our awareness-raising messages, our claims and our demands more effectively and ever further afield. This award will act as a loudspeaker for the advocacy of women who have been raped throughout the world, in general, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular. For that reason we wish to offer our most sincere thanks to the Crown of Spain for having instituted this Prince of Asturias Award, the members of the Jury for having believed in our cause, the organizations who nominated us for this award and the civil society organizations in Spain which have supported and accompanied us in raising awareness at an international level.

Not to mention the important role played by journalism in the world. Our thoughts go out to all the journalists who are risking their lives so that the truth of what is happening in conflict zones may be known. We are thinking of Ghislaine Dupont from RFI, we are also thinking of the Spaniard Julio Anguita, who died seeking out the truth. And we are thinking especially of the journalists at Radio Okapi, who work day and night seeking peace in this beautiful country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Let me conclude my message with a Spanish poem:

“Writing calls for two hands / caressing calls for two hands / applauding calls for two hands / while peace calls for all the hands in the world”.

Thank you.

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