15 000 rapes in DRC - UN
New York - More than 15 000 rapes were committed last year in a strife-torn region of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where peacekeepers are unable to fully protect civilians, a top UN official said on Friday.
With accusations now being made against DRC government troops over new cases of raping and killing in the east of the country, the head of the UN force, Roger Meece, said "the scale of the problem is enormous".
The chief of the UN Mission in DRC, Monusco, appeared before the UN Security Council the day after a UN envoy said government troops were attacking women and killing in the same villages where mass rapes were reported in July and August.
Meece was unable to give details of the new attacks but said: "The best data available, for example, suggests that over 15 000 rapes were committed last year in eastern DRC."
'Larger than Afghanistan'
Armed groups operate over a wide area and often mix with the civilian population, he added.
"In this vast area - larger than the size of Afghanistan - it is not possible for Monusco to ensure full protection for all civilians. To approach this goal would require vastly greater force levels and resources," Meece told the Security Council.
Margot Wallstroem, UN special envoy on sexual violence against women in conflict, told the council on Thursday that government troops are raping and killing women in remote villages in the Walikale region where hundreds of women were assaulted in July and August.
She said Momusco had reported new attacks by troops who are conducting an operation to enforce a government moratorium on illegal mining and in a bid to take control of the region from rebels and militias.
"The possibility that the same communities that were brutalised in July and August by FDLR and Mai Mai elements are now also suffering exactions at the hands of FARDC (government) troops is unimaginable and unacceptable," Wallstroem said.
She has already blamed the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai Mai militia for the mass rapes in July and August.