Nicole Johnston reports on UN accusations that DR Congo troops have committed mass rapes.
Government soldiers in the DR Congo have attacked and raped women in villages where rebels already committed mass rapes this summer, a high-level UN official has said.
UN peacekeepers in the Walikale territory have reported that army troops are committing “rapes, killings and lootings,” Margot Wallstrom, the special representative for sexual violence against women in conflict, told the UN security council on Thursday.
Thousands of soldiers have been deployed in the region to enforce a presidential moratorium on mining and restore order. In July and August, according to the United Nations, members of so-called Mai Mai militias and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) raped more than 300 women and children in the region.
Wallstrom called the new alleged army attacks “unacceptable and unimaginable” and called for the DR Congo government to investigate them and “hold any perpetrators to account”.
Call for sanctions
Wallstrom also told the Security Council that the United Nations should impose sanctions on Lieutenant Colonal Serafim, a Hutu FDLR commander, who witnesses say helped oversee the earlier rapes.
On October 5, Indian peacekeepers arrested Lieutenant Colonel Mayele, a Mai Mai militia leader whose troops allegedly participated in the rapes. But human rights activists have said the FDLR is the main perpetrator of such violence.
Reportedly operating together, a faction of the Mai Mai under a man called Commander Cheka, FDLR troops and a third armed group took over 13 villages in Walikale and proceeded to rape 235 women, 52 girls, 13 men and 3 boys, according to a UN investigation published in September.
The UN under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations told the Security Council last month that the United Nations had “failed” the victims.
Wallstrom praised the Indian soldiers who arrested Mayele and called his arrest 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.