Rebels suspected of over 100 rapes and beatings in east DRC

 

MORE THAN 100 people have been raped or beaten in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an aid agency and local leaders said yesterday, in the latest such incident by suspected rebels in the south Kivu area.

The attacks took place over two nights between June 10th and 12th across several villages 40km north of the town of Fizi in south Kivu, the medical charity Médecins sans Frontières said.

“We had teams in the area who were about to carry out a mass vaccination programme when they heard of what happened,” said Megan Hunter, head of the Dutch branch of the medical charity in south Kivu province.

“Along with the ministry of health we have treated over 100 people for rape and other physical trauma,” she said by telephone from the area.

The UN said it was sending a team on Friday to investigate the claims.

According to Jean-Marie Ngoma, a member of the provincial parliament, the attack was carried out by rebels led by Col Kifaru Niragiye.

Speaking to the UN-backed Radio Okapi, Mr Ngoma said the group ransacked a local health centre, stole farm animals and forced locals to carry stolen goods for them.

A former member of the Mai Mai militia, a loose connection of armed movements in eastern Congo, Col Niragiye had integrated forces into the army but defected and turned on the local population after protesting against a reorganisation of the local military command.

Estimated to command some 200 men, he was the military commander in the area on new year’s day, when his troops were accused of carrying out another mass rape in Fizi.

The DRC is consistently ranked as one the worst places in the in the world to be a woman.

Described last year as the “rape capital of the world” by a UN official, a study published in May by the American Journal of Public Health found that 1.8 million women in DRC had been raped, with more than 1,100 women being raped every day.

The situation is particularly bad in the resource-rich eastern DRC, which has been plagued by banditry and militia violence since the end of the country’s devastating five year war in 2003 that left five million people dead.

Many armed groups still operate in the area, with both rebels and the Congolese army accused of carrying out atrocities against civilians.