The United Nations is investigating claims that rebel fighters raped more than 200 women and baby boys in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The attacks happened over four days within approximately 16km from a UN peacekeepers’ base.
The crimes were allegedly committed by fighters from the Rwandan FDLR militia and Congolese Mai-Mai rebels in the village of Bunangiri.
DR Congo has a shocking reputation for sexual violence. Recently, a senior UN official called it “the rape capital of the world”.
A report by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative showed that 60% of rape victims in South Kivu province had been gang-raped by armed men.
More than than half of the assaults took place in the victims’ homes, the report said, and an increasing number of attacks were being carried out by civilians.
The UN also says that more than 8,000 women were raped during fighting in 2009.
Rape is being systematically used as a tool of war in too many conflicts. The ‘risk aversion’ strategy practised by the UN forces in places such as DR Congo must be replaced by one that seriously means to protect those people most at risk from war crimes.
Violence against women is a war crime of the highest order and needs to be treated as such.
Shame on the UN for allowing it to happen so close to one of its bases, shame on the world for allowing it to happen anywhere, shame on us all.