By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch, Africa
KINSHASA, DR Congo- Government soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) have been accused of the New Year’s Day mass rape in Fizi of over a dozen women. The coordinated attack also left many more injured and included the looting and burning of several town homes and businesses. A spokesperson for the military, Vianney Kazarama, has confirmed that eight soldiers have been arrested in connection with the attack. Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated that thirty-six individuals were treated for rape at the Fizi hospital and the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in Fizi. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that among the suspects in custody, all are government soldiers and at least one is a ranking officer.
Rape as a weapon of war has been prevalent in DR Congo and under-reporting makes it difficult to track. Of the almost 16,000 cases of war rape reported in 2008, 65% of those were children, most of them girls. Unmarried women who are raped face being ostracized in their communities and are seen as undesirable for marriage. Married women who are raped are routinely abandoned or divorced by their husbands.
This attack highlights a pattern of rape and looting by soldiers in DR Congo. Last month, a Congolese military commander was ‘blacklisted’ by a U.N. Security Council committee for orchestrating mass rapes in the eastern regions of the country. Several months prior, during the summer, hundreds were raped by Rwandan Hutu rebel forces and the Congolese troops who were fighting them. Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times Reporter on human rights violations in Africa and Asia, has said of the human rights violations occurring in DR Congo, “…no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response.”
For more information, please see;
AFP– DRCongo Troops Blamed For Rapes, Looting in Sud-Kivu– 12 Jan., 2011
Reuters Africa- Congo Soldiers Held Over Alleged Rapes, Looting- U.N.– 12 Jan., 2011
AllAfrica.com- Rape. Re-rape. Gang Rape. But, Really, Who Cares?– 12 Jan., 2011