Over 100 DR Congo villagers raped, beaten in attack – claim

2011-06-23 11:54

Kinshasa – More than 100 villagers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were raped or beaten in a two-day attack this month, the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said today.

A local parliamentarian blamed army soldiers for the violence.

“Our teams have treated since Tuesday more than 100 people who were victims of rape or physical violence between June 10 and 12,” said Megan Hunter, head of the Dutch branch of MSF in Sud-Kivu province.

The attack was in the Sud-Kivu village of Niakiele, she told AFP.

Provincial parliamentarian Jean-Marie Ngoma blamed the assaults on “soldiers from the Congolese army”, headed by an officer named as Colonel Niragire Kifaru who was a former member of the Mai Mai tribal militia.

More than 60 women in the village were raped, Ngoma said.

The resource-rich eastern DR Congo is an unstable area marked by violence blamed largely on the presence of the army and a host of militia and rebel groups.

Yesterday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported looting and atrocities committed overnight on June 10 in the villages of Kanguli, Abala and Niakiele, by almost 200 soldiers led by Kifaru.

The UN report did not mention rapes, but Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, in April told the UN Security Council that the conflict-traumatised country is “the rape capital of the world”.

Colonel Vianney Kazarama, spokesperson for the DR Congo armed forces (FARDC) in Sud-Kivu province, denied that Colonel Kifaru was involved in the rapes.

“This is false, he never committed an infraction. There are Mai Mai militia in the zone, and also (rebels of) the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).”

The FARDC spokesman nevertheless admitted that Kifaru had deserted and “taken to the bush, because he wanted troops (being integrated into the regular army) to be taken into consideration, because they had no water and nothing to eat.”

MSF Holland is in the remote region, which is hard to reach, to carry out a measles vaccination campaign. It has sent a team of six aid workers to a health centre at Abala and a hospital in Niakiele to look after rape victims, men as well as women.

The Congolese army is training several regiments in Sud-Kivu and Nord-Kivu provinces, after several local armed groups were integrated into military ranks.

This process of integration began after a regional war devastated the DR Congo between 1998 and 2003 and the new army lacks training and discipline.

According to lawmaker Ngoma, Kifaru is a former member of the Mai Mai group known as the Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO), and he commanded the 42nd FARDC sector based at Fizi, which is three hours by road from Niakiele.

Ngoma said that the military base from which Kifaru deserted with his men is 10 kilometres (six miles) from Fizi, and he added that the troops were currently headed north towards Nord-Kivu “committing many atrocities” on their way.

The vast central African country has a high incidence of rape, with a study released in May saying more than 1 100 women were raped every day.

More than 400 000 women and girls between the ages of 15 to 49 were raped in the conflict-ravaged country during a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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