More than two dozen children were among the hundreds of civilians recently raped by members of armed groups active in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations reported today.
At least 240 people were raped in a string of villages in North Kivu province between 30 July and 2 August, with the attackers blocking the road and preventing the villagers from reaching outside communications. Many homes were also looted.
The UN said today that 27 minors, including one boy, were among those assaulted, with one attempted rape reported as well.
Child protection officers have also been notified by eight other minors are being treated for sexual abuses by a health centre in North Kivu, but these cases have not been confirmed by the world body.
According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), more than 9,000 cases of rape were reported last year in North and South Kivu provinces alone, while many cases are believed to go unreported.
The recent mass rapes underscores the need for an end to impunity for perpetrators of such crimes, Margot Wallström, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, told reporters earlier this week.
These latest atrocities reinforce that “you cannot have a policy of zero tolerance backed by zero consequences,” she emphasized.
The DRC Government must buttress its policies to combat sexual violence with “consistent and visible consequences” for perpetrators, Ms. Wallström said.
“So long as rapists remain at large, they hold the whole reputation of the Congo hostage.”
Mr. Ban has dispatched Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary-General in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), to the region in the wake of the recent wave of sexual violence.
Mr. Khare has met with senior Congolese officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil in the capital, Kinshasa, and is now in the east. He is expected to brief Security Council members on his visit next Tuesday.