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Soldiers rape and pillage Congolese town

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 28th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Congolese soldiers have been accused of running rampant in the eastern town of Minova after their resounding defeat at the hands of the M23 rebels. Witnesses say that many of the soldiers were drunk and acted aggressively against residents over the last weekend, after they had been driven out of the provincial capital of Goma by the rebels.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Things are not at all well here," one Minova resident said. "There are very many soldiers here now. They have looted, they have killed, they are raping our women."

Another resident speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the "soldiers came and they started to shoot and rape our women. They stole all the food and goods in the shops. They said if anyone spoke out against them, they would be killed."

Troops arrived in Minova late last week after a renewed assault on rebel positions in the nearby town of Sake. The army offensive had surprised the rebels, but the gains were short-lived and before long the government soldiers had been forced into a mass retreat.

A source at the United Nations peacekeeping force, again speaking on the condition of anonymity said the marauding troops had looted homes and shops.

Some residents have told journalists that government soldiers were preying on those who they were supposed to protect in the first place. The government troops in Minova seemed to be in disarray. Soldiers drawn from various regiments roamed together - they had no knowledge where the rest of their regiment was. Finding a commander was also near impossible last Saturday.

The lack of clear leadership has been worsened by the recent suspension of the chief of ground forces, General Gabriel Amisi by DRC President Joseph Kabila. A United Nations report accused Amisi of procuring weapons for illegal armed groups.

Amisi was considered one of the most powerful men in DRC and commanded the loyalty of his troops.

General Francois Olenga flew at once into Minova to begin trying to raise morale and organize the soldiers into a reliable fighting force.

Olenga had apparently made some progress. Military police were seen herding drunken soldiers away from the street and reprimanding those who misbehaved. Olenga said the situation in Minova was "evolving positively.

"We are the national army, we must not behave [or] put ourselves on the same illegal footing as M23," he said. Olenga spoke firmly and chillingly on those who disobeyed. "What have we done with the traitors? We shot them."

The M23 rebels continue to hold all the cards with its leader heading to Kampala for Uganda-mediated talks.

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