For the first time in nine years, 50,000 mothers took to the streets of Bukavu, on Tuesday, to celebrate international Women's Day. For years the city was at the centre of a conflict whose principal victims were women.
Xaverian missionary Fr Luigi Lo Stocco, director of Radio Maria Malia wa Amani, in Bukavu, in eastern Democratic Congo said: "They crossed the city in an endless parade several kilometres long. It was a lovely day in Bukavu and our mammas literally took command of the streets." "With their colours and cheers they brought a smile and hope to Congo, struggling to find its peace and its dignity once again.
The atmosphere was one of rejoicing, the years of the past forgotten, the women were determined to deliver their message. Independence Square could hardly hold at least 50,000 mothers from every part of the city and of different religions." Fr Luigi said: "For the first time veiled Muslim women, about a thousand of them, stood out among the others. Their songs gave the event a festive air while their slogans denouncing sexual violence were deeply moving. 'Mama nakupenda sana' (Mamma I love you) the mothers sang" Fr Luigi said. "Bukavu was always the centre of resistance against any sort of evil and is was made it a martyr city which will bear its deep and visible scars in its heart for a long time to come,: the missionary recalled. Bukavu was at the centre of the civil war from 1998-2003. "March 8 is of special significance in Democratic Congo this year when there will be elections. T his vote should mean that the civil war is at last a thing of the past."
Women in Congo were the main victims of the war. According to a recent report compiled by international human rights organisations in the civil war which started in east Congo in 1998 and ended in 2003 tens of thousands of women, girls and children were raped by groups of militia. But March 8 was also an opportunity for Congo's women to voice their needs. "The day was marked by a seri