Rebel chief held over DRC rapes
Kinshasa - A Democratic Republic of Congo militia chief was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of leading raids on villages in the country's east where 500 people were raped in late July and early August, the UN said.
Colonel Mayele, commander of a tribal Mai-Mai militia, was arrested in a military operation carried out by the UN Mission for the Stabilisation of the DRC (Monusco) and the Congolese military, a UN spokesperson said.
"He is currently being held in Goma," the capital of Nord-Kivu province, the spokesperson added, without giving more details on the arrest.
The UN accuses Mayele of leading a coalition of at least 200 fighters from the Mai-Mai militia and the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda who raped some 500 men, women and children.
The mass rapes took place in 13 villages in the Walikale region in Nord-Kivu province.
UN special envoy for sexual violence in the DRC, Margot Wallstroem, was on her second visit to the country on Tuesday, and criss-crossed the unstable provinces of Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu.
"I came to meet the victims, to hear their stories, the better to understand what is happening, their fear, their rage and their depression," Wallstroem said in an interview.
Talks with political leaders
"I also came to get the message across that we have to pursue the perpetrators, because it's like that that you put an end to impunity."
Wallstroem visited the remote territory of Walikale in the west of Nord-Kivu, where the mass rapes took place.
"That was horror," she said. "I think that it will destroy this country, if this continues, because it will brutalise the whole society, from generation to generation, and destroy all the values, all the standards."
In Goma and in Bukavu, the capital of Sud-Kivu, as well as in the DRC capital Kinshasa, Wallstroem also held talks with political leaders.
The UN force has been strongly criticised for having failed to protect people in Walikale in July and August. "The means available to Monusco, its personnel and its capacities are not sufficient," Wallstroem said.
"We could improve the training (of UN troops), step up patrols, talk more to the population and strengthen intelligence," she said, but added that "we can't think that Monusco must stand in the place of the state to guarantee security".