In this series, we speak with different people from various sectors and backgrounds who all work with and support survivors of torture in one way or another. What does their work mean to them and what are the biggest challenges in the anti-torture and rehabilitation movement?
For the third entry in our Q&A series, we speak with Guy Mulunda Kitwe, about his work as a psychologist at the SAVE CONGO Rehabilitation Centre, the legacy of rape and torture in the DRC and the ongoing struggle for funding.
Q: What is your profession and where do you work?
I am a psychologist at the SAVE CONGO rehabilitation centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Q: How long have you worked with torture survivors?
I have worked with torture victims since 2003. I was initially working with USAID as a psychologist on a programme for abandoned children.
Q: How did you end up in this sector? Was it something you specifically wanted to do or was it more of a coincidence?
It was during the armed conflict in 1997. Many women and children experienced torture and mass violence and I just thought how come so many people are suffering from torture. It was then that I decided to work for the anti-torture movement.
Q: Tell us about the situation for torture survivors where you are/or your home country?
Torture is widespread in the DRC. For many years the country was known as the centre of rape because of the violence against women. This continued for a long time and now we’re seeing the consequences. Women have had children as a result of the rape and for most victims the trauma continues. We have many clients who experienced torture a long time ago, but are only now seeking help at our centre. This is because the security in the country has improved thanks to the UN peacekeeping forces and a hardworking government.
In the DRC, there are still some rebel groups in the mountains and in the villages, but the number has gone down from 24 to just five to six groups. It is still a long process to treat victims of torture. We are the only centre in the DRC that is working specifically with victims of torture. Sometimes we receive clients referred to us by the UNHCR and UNICEF. We have a close working relationship with these and other UN agencies.
Q: What does your work mean to you?
For me, working with victims of torture means to respect human beings. My work has truly taught me to respect other people. It has also allowed me to progress/grow personally and professionally, especially in relation to increasing my knowledge and ability to working with people.
Q: Can you give us an example of how you have seen your work make a difference?
In 2000, many torture victims did not have access to rehabilitation. If, for example, they went to a hospital, they would not be given specific treatment. However, over the years, SAVE CONGO has built and developed a range of services. Now victims know where to go and other organisations, such as the hospitals know where to send victims. Another thing is training, which is something we are able to offer because of our work with organisations like the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). I am proud to say that we have supported more than 8,000 torture victims.
Q: How has your sector/industry changed since you started?
The change is that many organisations and hospitals are now involved in the fight against torture.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sector/industry?
The lack of funding for rehabilitation centres. We are receiving more and more victims of torture, but sadly we do not have sufficient funding to do our job. This means that we have limited resources such as staff.
Q: What do you think needs to be done to make the right to rehabilitation a reality?
In the DRC, the state needs to take responsibility for all the people in the country and do everything in its power to support torture victims. At the moment, there is no national programme on torture and this is something that we really need.
Q: What are your hopes for the future?
My hope is that torture rehabilitation will be available for all victims of torture.