The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has called for the removal of the commander and deputy commander of a national army unit whose troops were involved in alleged rapes in the eastern part of the country.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, has asked that the pair be held accountable and urged that prompt action be taken to ensure that all the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York today.
Earlier this month, the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières reported that armed men raped over 30 women on New Year's Day in an attack in the eastern town of Fizi.
MONUSCO’s understanding is that ten soldiers from the DRC’s armed forces have been detained in Fizi, in South Kivu province, in connection with the incidents, Mr. Nesirky said, while two others, both majors, have fled from the area. The governor of South Kivu has informed MONUSCO that the soldiers will be tried in a court to be set up in Fizi and that he expects the proceedings to start next week. The commander of the troops at the time of incident has not been arrested.
Rape has long been used as a weapon of war by all sides in the DRC, which has been riven by strife for decades. Last October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, told the Security Council that hundreds of women who were raped by rebels in eastern DRC in the summer faced the possibility of the same abuse from government troops.
A UN human rights team confirmed that more than 300 civilians, including some boys and men, were raped between 30 July and 2 August in the Walikale region, in eastern DRC, by members of armed groups including the Maï Maï Cheka and the Rwandan rebel group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.
“Rapes will continue so long as consequences are negligible,” Ms. Wallström told the Council, calling for perpetrators to be excluded from any amnesty provisions or post-conflict advancement and warning of the long-term consequences of abuses on a nation’s ethos.
Since 1999 and under other names, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, with over 19,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, has overseen the vast country’s emergence from years of civil war and factional chaos, culminating most notably in 2006 with the first democratic elections in over four decades. However, fighting has continued in the east where the bulk of UN forces are deployed.