UN reports over 500 rapes in eastern Congo

The United Nations reported yesterday that more than 500 systematic rapes were committed by armed combatants in eastern Congo since late July — more than double the number previously reported — and accepted partial responsibility for not protecting citizens.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare told the UN Security Council that at least 267 more rapes occurred in another area of the country's east, in addition to 242 rapes earlier reported in and around Luvungi, a village of about 2,200 people located about 20 miles from a UN peacekeepers' camp.



"While the primary responsibility for protection of civilians lies with the state, its national army and police force," said Khare, "clearly, we have also failed. Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalization of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better."



The UN peacekeeping force in Congo, called MONUSCO, launched an operation on September 1 using 750 troops to back efforts by Congolese security forces to arrest the perpetrators of the attacks, said Khare. At least 27 rebels armed with automatic rifles have surrendered and at least four more have been arrested, he said.



Meanwhile, Khare said, peacekeepers will undertake more night patrols, and perform more random checks on communities. The UN is also looking into ways of providing peacekeepers with mobile phones by installing a high frequency radio in Luvungi, he said.



Rape as a weapon of war has become shockingly commonplace in eastern Congo, where the government army and UN peacekeepers have failed to defeat the few thousands rebels responsible for a protracted conflict fueled by vast mineral reserves. Luvungi is a farming center on the main road between Goma, the eastern provincial capital, and the major mining town of Walikale.



Khare told reporters after the council session that over 15,000 rapes were reported in Congo in both 2008 and 2009.



Ambassador Susan Rice, the US representative to the United Nations, called Tuesday's briefing "very frank, comprehensive and illuminating" and said she looked forward to more sessions examining ways to prevent future mass rapes in Congo.



UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent Khare to Congo to investigate why UN peacekeepers didn't learn about at least 242 mass rapes in the Luvungi area from July 30 to Aug. 4 until August 12, when it was informed by the International Medical Corps which was treating many of the victims.



The additional sexual attacks, in an area called Uvira and other regions of North and South Kivu, came to light during Khare's trip. He told council members he learned of 74 cases of sexual violence, including against 21 minors — all girls between the ages of 7 and 15 — and six men, in a village called Miki, in South Kivu. All the women in another village, Kiluma, may have been systematically raped, he said.



Khare said in a community called Katalukulu, 10 women were raped by Congolese soldiers, which he said must "maintain a much higher standard of discipline, good behavior and conduct, and observance of human rights."



Altogether, he detailed new reports of mass rapes on various communities that added up to at least 267.



The assistant secretary-general called for prosecution of Rwandan rebel FDLR and Congolese Mai-Mai rebels blamed for many of the attacks and UN sanctions against their leaders.



Margot Wallstrom, who is responsible for UN efforts to combat sexual violence in conflict, expressed her alarm over the increase in reported rapes, saying they show "a broader pattern of widespread and systematic rape and pillage." A senior member of Wallstrom's staff accompanied Khare on his recent trip.



"It is evident that rape is increasingly selected as the weapon of choice in eastern (Congo), with numbers reaching endemic proportions," she told the Security Council. "The sad reality is that incidents of rape have become so commonplace that they do not trigger our most urgent interventions."



Wallstrom last month warned leaders of rebel groups that they could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court because widespread and systemic sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.



Congo's U.N. Ambassador Ileka Atoki expressed his "deep disgust" with the mass rapes and thanked the Security Council for investigating the attacks.



"These heinous acts, that have become a weapon of war, are one more episode of the unspeakable suffering that the people of Congo have been plunged for more than a decade now," Atoki told council members.



Atoki said his country would continue to need international help to combat the attacks, characterizing national police sources as "pathetic." But international backing for efforts to end the protracted conflict in eastern Congo are just as important, he said.



Secretary-General Ban, who had been traveling in Europe, unexpectedly flew Tuesday to Rwanda, to discuss with officials their threat to withdraw UN peacekeepers from Sudan if the United Nations publishes a report accusing Rwanda's army of possible genocide in the 1990s.



The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur is commanded by a Rwandan, Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, and the country has over 3,200 troops and 86 police in the nearly 22,000-strong force. UN officials and diplomats have said a Rwandan pullout from Darfur would be a major blow at a time of increasing violence and fresh efforts to end the seven-year conflict.

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EYP

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Job opportunity for an Early years ...

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Secondary School Teachers in Ipswich

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories