UN confirms ID of rape-accused DRC rebel leader

2010-10-07 07:26

Kinshasa – The UN has confirmed the arrest of a man suspected of leading a group of Democratic Republic of Congo rebels who raped hundreds of civilians, after earlier concerns that he had been misidentified.

“It is Lieutenant Colonel Mayele, the military chief of the Mai-Mai Sheka group,” said Leila Zerrougui, the deputy head of UN’s Mission for the Stabilisation of the DR Congo (Monusco).

Earlier, a Monusco spokesperson had said there were doubts over the man’s identity.

Mayele is accused by the UN of leading a coalition of at least 200 fighters from the Mai-Mai and rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who raped about 500 men, women and children in the eastern Walikale region.

Mayele, who is in his 30s, was a former officer in the DRC military before leaving last year, a UN source said.

Monusco forces arrested Mayele on Tuesday in Walikale and he is currently being held in Goma, the capital of Nord-Kivu region.

The confusion over his arrest may have stemmed from the DRC military, some of whom were uneasy that one of their former officers was arrested, the UN source said.

Mayele’s identity was confirmed by witnesses who also said they recognised his voice.

He told interrogators that he took part in the attacks on 13 villages, but did not commit rape, the UN source said.

The arrest “is a very clear signal to other perpetrators that sexual violence is unacceptable and that justice will win,” said Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special envoy on sexual violence, during a press conference in capital Kinshasa at the end of a week-long visit to the country.

Since the start of last month, the Congolese army has led operations in the Walikale region against the FDLR and the Mai-Mai militia, who have increased their attacks against civilians in recent months.

Mayele was the commander of a Mai-Mai group led by Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi.

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