The top United Nations human rights official today urged the international community to take urgent action to stop the deteriorating cycle of sexual violence, bloodshed and destruction in the war-torn eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Since heavy fighting resumed in North Kivu in August, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented a steady worsening of the human rights situation with summary executions, kidnappings, rape and widespread looting committed on a daily basis by the armed groups operating in the region.
Speaking on the eve of special Human Rights Council session devoted to the situation in the DRC, Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that failing to end the fighting in eastern DRC could lead to outbreaks of large-scale violence in the rest of the country, and possibly elsewhere in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
“Recent reports suggest an escalation of sexual violence in its most brutal forms, committed by all sides in the conflict, including soldiers belonging to the national army,” Ms. Pillay said in a press release issued today.
“I was appalled to learn that last week a 13-year-old girl was raped so viciously in a camp for displaced people in Kibati, that she died as a result,” she added.
The High Commissioner stressed that “thousands upon thousands” of women have been raped over the past decade with impunity, and without justice, the crimes will simply continue.
She also noted that a lucrative trade in illegally mined minerals is fuelling the Congolese conflict and that proceeds from the illicit business are the main source of financial support for the warring factions in eastern DRC.
“The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are destitute, but the country's mineral wealth is vast,” Ms. Pillay said.
“Only through a concerted effort, involving state and non-state actors and the international community, will it become possible to stop the fighting and re-deploy the country's resources to generate the welfare, development and prosperity that the Congolese people are entitled to, and so desperately need after 12 years of extreme lawlessness and violence.”