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Mass rape reported in DR Congo - miles from a UN base

Reports say 200 women were raped by rebels during a four-day seizure of a town.

A rebel gropes a local woman as he passes her on a mountain path near Kimua in eastern DR Congo.
Image: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

NEARLY 200 WOMEN were reportedly raped by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a four-day seizure of a town – just miles from the UN’s local peacekeeping base, according to reports.

Fighters from a Rwandan rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR) and local Mai-Mai militia groups occupied Luvungi, just outside the country’s capital Kigali, on July 3o.

A UN spokesman said the peacekeeping operation worked from a military base 30km east of Luvungi, but that peacekeepers were only able to access the town again four days later – when the rebels withdrew from the town of their own accord.

“There was no fighting and no deaths,” said Will Cragin of the International Medical Corps. There was, however, “lots of pillaging and the systematic raping of women.” The IMC is treating the victims, which also includes four young boys.

Locals say the occupation could not be stopped because there were only about 25 peacekeepers on duty – compared to the mob of between 200 and 400 rebels who took command of the village.

“When the peacekeepers approached a village, the rebels would run into the forest, but then the Blue Helmets had to move on to another area, and the rebels would just return,” he said.

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The UN has been slowly withdrawing peacekeeping forces from the DR Congo following pressure from the domestic government to end its missino before the end of 2011.

Peacekeepers have been present in the country since 1999, trying to help the government maintain control over the country which was decimated by a war between 1998 and 2003, and an ensuing humanitarian catastrophe.

The UN has yet to make a statement on the rapes, except to say it was still investigating.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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