160 raped in DRC each week
Goma - An estimated 160 women are being raped each week in the Democratic Republic of Congo's unstable North and South Kivu provinces, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
The Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report that "armed men" - including the national army - were largely responsible for the sexual violence. Over 8 000 cases of rape were reported in 2009.
DR Congo's deadly five-year war - believed to have caused the deaths of over 5 million people - ended in 2003, but rebel groups and militia have continued to cause havoc in the eastern provinces.
OCHA said that 1.35 million people have been displaced in the provinces, the majority of them during 2009 as the Congolese army, backed by UN peacekeepers, struggled to wipe out a Rwandan rebel group.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) was formed by militia who fled Rwanda after taking part in the 1994 genocide of 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. It has played a key role in the DR Congo's ongoing unrest for over a decade. Civilians have been caught in the middle of the clashes.
The UN peacekeeping force Monuc last year withdrew support for an army unit that killed dozens of civilians. New York-based Human Rights Watch documented cases where civilians were decapitated, beaten to death, shot and gang raped by the army - all accusations that have been repeated by other aid agencies and investigators since the operation began. The FDLR has for its part carried out revenge attacks on civilians.