Global Policy Forum

Two hundred Women Gang-Raped near UN Base

Rwandan and Congolese rebels gang-raped nearly 200 women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, within kilometers of a UN peacekeeper's base. No one was killed during the attack; rape was the weapon of choice. By the time NGOs were able to access the attacked town, it was too late to administer medication against HIV/AIDS. The Congolese government demanded the withdrawal of the UN Mission earlier this year, saying it has failed to fulfill its primary mandate of protecting civilians. The UN Mission has not protected civilians against rape, nor has it provided timely support when rape occurs. Furthermore, the UN took more than three weeks to issue a statement on the attack.

Mail & Guardian Online
August 24, 2010

Rwandan and Congolese rebels gang-raped nearly 200 women and some young boys over four days within kilometres of a UN peacekeepers' base in an eastern Democratic Republic of Congo mining district, an American aid worker and a Congolese doctor said on Monday.

Will Cragin of the International Medical Corps said aid workers knew rebels had occupied Luvungi town and surrounding villages in eastern DRC the day after the attack began on July 30. UN agencies sent SMSes saying the area was occupied, he said.

More than three weeks later, the UN mission has issued no statement about the atrocities and said Monday it still is investigating.

Cragin told the Associated Press by telephone that his organisation was only able to get into the town, which he said is about 16km from a UN military camp, after rebels ended their brutal spree of raping and looting and withdrew of their own accord on August 4.

There was no fighting and no deaths, he said, just "lots of pillaging and the systematic raping of women" by between 200 and 400 rebels.

Four young boys also were raped, said Dr Kasimbo Charles Kacha, the district medical chief.

"Many women said they were raped in their homes in front of their children and husbands," Cragin said. Others were dragged into the nearby forest.

He said that by the time they got help it was too late to administer medication against HIV/Aids and contraception to all but three of the survivors.

Many women said they were raped repeatedly by three to six attackers, Cragin said. International and local health workers have treated 179 women but the number raped could be much higher as terrified civilians are still hiding, he said.

"We keep going back and identifying more and more cases," he said. "Many of the women are returning from the forest naked, with no clothes."

Luvungi is a farming centre of about 2 200 people on the main road between Goma, the eastern provincial capital, and the major mining town of Walikale.

Kacha said on one day during the rebel occupation Indian peacekeepers had provided a military escort against the rebels to a large commercial truck traveling from Kebab to Luvungi, which is near a cassiterite mine and about 140km south of Goma.

UN mission spokesperson Madnodje Mounoubai promised to get military comment on the assumption that the peacekeepers were protecting commercial goods but not civilians, which is their primary mandate.

Rape as a weapon of war

Survivors said their attackers were from the Rwandan rebel FDLR group that includes perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide who fled across the border to the DRC in 1994 and have been terrorising the population in the eastern part of the country ever since, according to Cragin. The Rwandans were accompanied by Congolese Mai-Mai rebels, he said, quoting survivors.

Rape as a weapon of war has become shockingly commononplace in eastern DRC, where at least 8 300 rapes were reported last year, according to the United Nations. It is believed that many more rapes go unreported.

The DRC's army and UN peacekeepers have been unable to defeat the many rebel groups responsible for the long drawn-out conflict in eastern DRC, which is fuelled by the area's massive mineral reserves. Gold, cassiterite and coltan are some of the minerals mined in the area near Luvungi, with soldiers and rebels competing for control of lucrative mines that give them little incentive to end the fighting.

The Congolese government this year has demanded the withdrawal of the $1,35-billion-a-year UN mission, the largest peacekeeping force in the world with more than 20 000 soldiers, saying it has failed in its primary mandate to protect civilians.

Mission officials have said that the peacekeeping army is too small to police this sprawling nation the size of Western Europe, and that its peacekeepers are handicapped by rebels using civilians as shields and operating in rugged forests and mountains where they are difficult to pursue.

The mission also has a difficult mandate of supporting the Congolese army, whose troops often also are accused of raping and pillaging.





FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.