Congolese humanitarian Rose Mapendo brings message of peace to Israel

Global human rights activist, survivor of genocide recently arrived in Israel to give speech marking International Women's Day.

March 12, 2014 21:10
3 minute read.
Rose Mapendo

Rose Mapendo. (photo credit: LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

In the late 1990s, ethnic violence consumed the Democratic Republic of Congo in a conflict that has since claimed the lives of some five million men, women and children.

Rose Mapendo, brought by the Women’s Empowerment Foundation to speak earlier this week at Tel Aviv University to mark International Women’s Day, said she became a global human rights activist as a result of the upheaval.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

“My life today is the life I fell into because of the experience I had a long time ago,” she said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“This is not the life I had planned.”

Mapendo and her husband, both members of the Tutsi tribe, were living in the DRC with their seven children in 1998 when Rwanda’s Tutsi army invaded. In response, DRC President Laurent- Désiré Kabila branded all members of the tribe as national enemies – the equivalence of a death sentence.

She, her husband and six of their children were taken from their home and put in a death camp for 16 months.

The couple was separated from their four-year-old daughter Nangabire, who was staying with her grandparents.

Mapendo’s husband was executed. Later, she discovered she was pregnant. While in prison she gave birth to twins, managing against all odds to keep her remaining family alive.

“Imagine for 16 months there is no hope and nobody is encouraging you that everything is going to be alright,” she recounted.

“Every night you didn’t know who they were coming to kill – you, your child or your friend.”

Mapendo described a reality in which she and her children were surrounded by men with guns every minute of every day, “even when you had to use the restroom,” she said.

“I used to say men were the lucky ones because they were killed quickly, but the women, they killed us a different way,” she said. “They killed our soul through the children.”

She named her newborn twins after the military commanders in an effort to create a bond with her captors so that they might spare their lives.

“They could not kill somebody who was named after them,” she explained.

Eventually, she and her children were moved to a camp in Kinshasa where she also witnessed brutal murder, torture and starvation.

Following their terrifying ordeal, they were relocated to a safe haven and finally to Phoenix, Arizona, where they reside today. Eventually, she was reunited with Nangabire.

Recounting her ordeal has become an inseparable part of Mapendo’s life and her current humanitarian work.

In 2012 she created the Rose Mapendo Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to empowering women and children around the world who have been the victims of violence. She is now a global human rights activist advocating forgiveness.

“I used to pray to God asking why I was a woman, why I was a Tutsi, why I was in the Congo, and why could You allow these things to happen,” she said. “But I think God didn’t do this. This is a choice people made to put other people in suffering, like the choice I made to speak on behalf of other women.”

While she said she could forgive, she can never forget.

“I didn’t survive the day I was rescued; I survived the day I chose to forgive the enemy,” she stated.

Mapendo believes the key to peace is through the united efforts of women, saying that all her humanitarian work to date has been in part to encourage women to forgive and join together to bring peace.

“Women count. We are the moms, we raise the generations and we raise the nations of tomorrow,” she said.

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night