United Nations officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today reported another 53 alleged cases of rape in the conflict-rife eastern part of the country, bringing to 120 those reported since the beginning of the year and attributed to all sides, including the national army.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) is concerned about a steady increase in rapes in North and South Kivu, allegedly perpetrated by members of foreign and Congolese armed groups, as well as elements of the Congolese armed forces, " a UN spokesman said.
Some of the worst offences, already reported, took place over the New Year holiday in Fizi and Bushani, where elements of the national army, known as FARDC, are alleged to have been involved in at least 67 rapes. MONUSCO welcomed the promptness with which the Government arrested 11 army personnel, including the officer in charge of the operation in the incidents.
But since then, at least 53 additional rapes were committed in the Moyens Plateaux, with members of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) believed to be involved, MONUSCO said.
The Mission has increased its protection activities in several areas, including through stepped-up patrols and is considering strengthening its military presence in the areas.
Yesterday, MONUSCO peacekeepers from the Indian contingent rescued seven women taken hostage by MaÃ¯ MaÃ¯ fighters in the North Kivu village of Ntoto. Following reports of the hostage-taking by villagers in the region, a MONUSCO brigade acted swiftly, cordoned off the village and negotiated the release of the women without a fight. The negotiation lasted about two hours.
Rape has long been used as a weapon of war by all sides in the DRC, which has been riven by strife for decades. Last October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon`s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot WallstrÃ¶m, told the Security Council that hundreds of women who were raped by rebels in eastern DRC in the summer faced the possibility of the same abuse from government troops.
A UN human rights team confirmed that more than 300 civilians, including some boys and men, were raped between 30 July and 2 August in the Walikale region, in eastern DRC, by members of armed groups including the MaÃ¯ MaÃ¯ Cheka and the Rwandan rebel group.
Since 1999 and under various names, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, with over 19,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, has overseen the vast country`s emergence from years of civil war and factional chaos, culminating most notably in 2006 with the first democratic elections in over four decades. But fighting has continued in the east where the bulk of UN forces are deployed.