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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
people
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Arts and Entertainment
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
tv'Friends' cafe will be complete with Gunther and orange couch
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone