Congo govt troops blamed for mass rape: UN report
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Last Updated: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 00:03
  
Kinshasa: Congolese government troops carried out mass rapes in a remote part of eastern Congo over the New Year period, according to a UN report released on Friday, though a Congolese military spokesman called the report's conclusions premature.

The UN's human rights office said investigators found at least 47 women were subjected to rape and other sexual assaults from December 31, 2010, to January 1, 2011 in an isolated and mountainous area of North Kivu province. The report said investigators spoke to several witnesses and victims who said Congolese soldiers were responsible.

The victims, aged between 16 and 65, included pregnant women, and some were raped in front of their children, the report said.

The incident occurred when 100 soldiers had attacked the villages of Bushani and Kalambahiro with whips, machetes and rifles, accusing the inhabitants of supporting enemy forces.

Investigators were unable to interview some of the rape victims because most of the villagers have fled to the nearby forest or other towns, fearing another attack. Others refused to give evidence because they feared reprisals, the UN said.

"Considering the evidence gathered, the number of victims of this attack could be significantly higher," the report said.

But Congolese military spokesman Col Sylvain Ekenge said army officials were working with UN officials in the area to investigate the incident and had not reached a conclusion yet.

"We are surprised by the publication of this report, because we are investigating and await the conclusions," he said.

He added: "We can't act on simple allegations. After investigations, if any of the troops are found responsible we will not hesitate to punish them."

Armed groups in Congo have frequently used rape as a tool of war against perceived enemy supporters. The region has been wracked by violence since Rwanda's 1994 genocide spilled conflict across the border.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in June concluded that more than 1,000 women are raped in Congo every day.

The study based on a government health survey found the highest frequency of rape was in North Kivu province, where 67 women per 1,000 had been raped at least once.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 00:03


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