Congo - Part One: Sifa was 14 when she was first raped. Five years on she and her children are social outcasts, like thousands of others targeted by sexual violence in Congo each year.

It was their first night at home after two weeks of hiding in the bush, sleeping under the waxy cover of banana trees where the folds of the lush mountains rise vivid green with tea. Vincienne and her husband had been told it was safe to go back and were asleep when the chirruping of crickets was interrupted by a hammering on the door.

Sifa Mudekeneza with her son Pascal and daughter Pascaline.

"We refused to open, so they smashed it down," Vincienne, 30, explains. "They grabbed my husband, dragged him outside. I could see only torches. They demanded money. All we had was two cows. We showed them but they tied my husband to the tree outside. They took a metal instrument like a scalpel and gouged out his eyes. Then they took me back inside.

There were eight soldiers. One stayed with my husband. The other seven took it in turns to rape me.They inserted sticks in me.My oldest daughter was five. When she tried to defend me they beat her.

">"Then they dragged us outside. They shot my husband, covered him in leaves and then put a flame to him and the house. It was all on fire.My twin girls were only two year sold. They died inside."

Vincienne pauses. Telling her story is part of the treatment she is receiving now,but remembering it is part of the punishment too. She was, she says, bleeding heavily when the soldiers dragged her daughter and her towards Nindja forest some 60km away where the militia is based.

">"When we got there I was handed over to another man and forced to have sex with him," she says quietly. "We were forced to cook food and dig graves.They beat us everyday.I became pregnant from the rape and gave birth in the forest, but still they did not let me go." In all her ordeal lasted 12 months, until she escaped with her baby strapped to her back and her surviving daughter in her arms.

There is supposed to be a ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country the size of western Europe where two major armed conflicts in the recent past have left more than five million dead. In reality, the fighting is still going on. Some of the soldiers have agreed to reintegrate into the Congolese army or return to Rwanda, but their leaders invariably persuade others to remain and fight on. The leaders have nothing to lose: they will be offered no amnesty and some are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Ultimately, it is the women who pay the price.

The Congolese jungle, a riot of vegetation the author Joseph Conrad saw as the heart of darkness, is more light and beautiful than he painted it then, but it still harbours murderous intentions. Some 7000 members of the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) still live in the forest, an armed group dominated by Rwandan Hutu extremists and the Interahamwe who orchestrated the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

"When I got back my brother-in-law had sold our land," says Vincienne. "He said he did not want me back in the village - that I had to leave because my husband was dead. I had to beg to get food. People said bad things because I had been raped."

Congo - PART TWO