DR CONGO: Surge in sexual violence in North Kivu

[MINOVA, 6 December 2012] - Sexual violence is on the rise as armed groups continue to move across the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) North Kivu Province, officials say.

Since mid-November, the provincial capital, Goma, has been a site of battle, with rebel group M23 taking control of the city on 20 November. Following negotiations with neighbouring countries, M23 relinquished control of the city on 1 December, and the Congolese national army, FARDC, is back in charge. 

Days after FARDC troops arrived in Minova, 54km southwest of Goma, in late November, local women began to show up at local hospitals with injuries sustained from rape. 

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on 4 December that the Minova Hospital had recorded 72 cases of rape since the latest wave of violence started. UNICEF has provided the hospital with four post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) kits - equivalent to a total of 200 doses - to prevent victims from contracting HIV following their possible exposure to the virus.

War crimes

"There are more than 10 [FARDC] battalions here [in Minova], and they are raping the women," said Nestor Bulumbe, who has worked as a medical professional in the area for 17 years.  

Bulumbe's Kalere clinic alone has attended to 26 women, some of whom were gang-raped. His wife said that she attended the funeral of an 80-year-old woman who was raped by three men and died as a result.

"By day, they [the soldiers] raped them in the fields and by night they entered their houses. There is no discipline; smoking hemp, drinking, behaving very badly," Bulumbe said of the soldiers, adding that, of the many armed groups that had come through the town in the past 17 years, FARDC "are the worst". 

A spokesman for the FARDC, Col Olivier Hamuli, told IRIN that several soldiers suspected of rape and theft were arrested late last month in Minova and are being transferred to Kinshasa for trial.

The new commander of DRC’s land forces, Gen Francois Olenga, called a meeting of senior officers in Minova last week, at which he called for respect for the army code of good conduct and human dignity.

Earlier in the year, rights group Human Rights Watch accused M23 of committing a number of war crimes, including rapes.

The rebel group’s spokesman, Vianney Kazarama, has rejected the accusations in the report and criticized its authors for not including names of alleged victims or other evidence by which the allegations could be verified. 


Further Information

pdf: http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96981/DRC-Surge-in-sexual-violence-in-Nor...

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