UNITED NATIONS – DR Congo government troops are raping and
killing women in remote villages where hundreds were the victims of mass
rapes by militias just a few weeks ago, a top UN envoy has said.
Margot Wallstrom, UN special envoy on sexual violence against women
in conflict, said it was "unimaginable" that the same communities in the
mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were again the target
of sexual assaults.
She said the UN mission, MONUSCO, had reported new attacks in the
Walikale region where in late July and August militias and Rwandan
rebels rounded up women and raped them in front of their villages and
Wallstrom has in the past called DR Congo the "rape capital" of the world.
"I am gravely concerned about the ongoing military operations by
FARDC (DR Congo army) in the Walikale territory and the implications for
the protection of civilians," she told the UN Security Council on
"Thousands of FARDC troops have now been deployed to the territory
in an operation to implement the president's moratorium on mining in the
area and to reassert government control.
"There is already some information from MONUSCO peacekeepers on the
ground that rapes, killings and lootings have been perpetrated by FARDC
"The possibility that the same communities that were brutalized in
July and August by FDLR and Mai-Mai elements are now also suffering
exactions at the hands of FARDC troops is unimaginable and
Wallstrom called on the DR Congo government to quickly investigate the new attacks and "hold any perpetrators to account."
She had blamed the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of
Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai-Mai militia for the mass rapes in July and August.
A Mai-Mai leader, Lieutenant Colonel Mayele, was arrested in an
operation by Indian peacekeepers with the MONUSCO mission on October 5.
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Wallstrom praised the Indian soldiers and called the arrest of Mayele an "important precedent".
"When commanders can no longer rest easy in the certainty of
impunity, when it begins to cross their mind that they may be turned in
by their own, for commissioning or condoning rape, this is the moment
when we open a new front in the battle to end impunity," she said.
She said the Security Council should "escalate" the focus of the DR Congo sanctions committee on sexual crimes.
Wallstrom identified a militia leader, Lieutenant Colonel Seraphim,
of the FDLR, and said he should be added to the list of those facing
international sanctions, alleging that he was also to blamed for the
mass rapes in July and August.
Wallstrom said the arrests sent a strong signal to the thousands of
victims of rape in DR Congo each year, calling it: "A moment of solace,
that the world is not blind to their plight."
But also highlighted what she called the "nexus" between the pattern
of rapes and attacks and the presence of the huge mineral and natural
resource wealth in eastern DR Congo.
"The mineral wealth that should be the source of their great
prosperity is instead the source of their greatest suffering," she
Wallstrom said that UN peacekeepers in DR Congo are "overstretched
and under-resourced" with a "widening gap" between the expectations made
of the force and the means it is given.
"They are demoralized by the sheer scale of the problems and constant barrage of criticism from all quarters."
MONUSCO has about 20,000 staff and troops from more than 50
countries. Costing more than 1.3 billion dollars a year, it is one of
the world's biggest UN security operations.