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UN 'Failed' DR Congo Rape Victims


Congolese people cross a road in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's Nord-Kivu province. UN troops failed 242 women and children who suffered a mass rape attack in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a top UN peacekeeping official has said. (AFP/File/Pascal Guyot)

UN troops failed 242 women and
children who suffered a mass rape attack in the eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), a top UN peacekeeping official has said.

Congo hosts the largest and most costly UN peacekeeping mission in
the world, but the mass rape attacks happened just 30km from a UN base
some time between July 30 and August 3 in the North Kivu region.

"Our actions were not adequate, resulting in the unacceptable
brutalisation of villages in the area," Atul Khare, under-secretary
general for peacekeeping operations, told the UN Security Council on

He said that government of the DRC holds the primary responsibility
for security in the area, but acknowledged that "Clearly, we have also

The area was reportedly over-run by rebels from neighbouring Rwanda and Congolese Mai Mai militia.

Rape warning

On July 30, the day the rapes began, the UN mission in North Kivu
apparently received an e-mail warning that rebels had moved into the
town and one woman had been raped there. 

But the UN did not report it until ten days later.

Al Jazeera's Cath Turner, reporting from the UN in New York, said the
response of peacekeeping forces was "the biggest contention in this
whole controversy".

Our correspondent said Khare wants to see peacekeepers doing "more
spot patrols, more random patrols and more night patrols" in an attempt
to prevent further attacks.

Khare also wants to improve communications in the area as "there is
next to no mobile phone coverage. The UN wants to put in signal towers
... so it can better communicate with the troops there" in addition to
improving early warning systems, our correspondent said.  

Broad statement

Margaret Wallstrom, the UN special representative on the prevention
of sexual violence in conflict, told the Security Council that some of
the women were gang raped by up to five or six men and many were rounded

In terms of finding the perpetrators, our correspondent said there was a broad statement about bringing "them to justice".

"A commission was formed, but there is no date set for when they will
go to the DRC," she said, noting that the UN is frequently criticised
for talking a lot but not taking action.

"There is a kind of sense here that something has to be done. We are
just going to have to see how that red tape and bureaucracy takes it
forward," our correspondent.


Al Jazeera and agencies

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