Conflict-related rape the focus of UN official’s visit to DR Congo

14 April 2010
UN peacekeepers serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallström is on her first tour since her appointment, conducting a week-long visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where both rebels and the national army have been accused of mass rape.

Ms. Wallström, who was appointed in February, will go to ground zero of the alleged conflict-related sexual violence in the vast country, the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu where more than 8,000 women were raped by warring factions last year, according to UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates.

Sexual violence is not exclusively African and even less so Congolese but “a result of conflicts and war and the absence of peace in the DRC,” she said. “It is possible to fight sexual violence and find solutions; we must fight against impunity.”

Although the mainly ethnic Hutu rebel militia, known as the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) – who have been operating in the Kivus since the 1994 Rwandan genocide – are thought to be responsible for most of the rapes, members of the national army are also guilty of sexual abuse in North and South Kivu provinces, according to UN experts.

In a newspaper column last month, Mr. Wallström said sexual violence during conflicts was all too often downplayed and treated as part of local cultural traditions instead of being viewed as a war crime.


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