Amid reports of women being raped during recent mass expulsions from Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a senior United Nations official today called on both countries to investigate all allegations of sexual violence and take practical steps to prevent such crimes.
“I urge both Governments to do their utmost to stop sexual violence and to protect their populations, particularly women and children,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, said in a statement, adding that it is imperative that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
More than 12,000 Congolese citizens were expelled from Angola between September and December 2010, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Humanitarian assessment missions that visited the areas of arrival in October and November found that many of the individuals had endured ill-treatment and human rights abuses, including torture. There were also more than 100 confirmed cases of sexual violence at that time.
Following her meeting with victims of sexual violence in DRC in February, Ms. Wallström also paid a visit to Angola, where she met with Government officials as well as travelled to one of the border crossings and a refugee settlement to assess the situation.
The Angolan Government made a number of specific commitments which are outlined in a joint communiqué issued with the UN.
“Key to address sexual violence along the Angola-DRC border is constructive dialogue and cooperation with the Congolese authorities,” said Ms. Wallström, who reiterated that regardless of what the actual number of rapes and other forms of sexual violence along the border may be, “one rape is one too many.”
The practical measures include a reiteration through the respective chains of command of existing Army and Police Command Orders prohibiting sexual abuse, and reinforcing the commitment for zero tolerance of such violations in Army and Police Codes of Conduct.
The Government also pledged to grant UN protection staff regular access to detention or holding centres or similar locations, and to facilitate the participation of the UN and the Organization for Migration (IOM) as an observer in the organized expulsions being carried out by Angolan authorities.