Congo govt troops blamed for mass rape: UN report

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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