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126 women raped in an eastern Congo town following arrival of army

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 19th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United nations says that 126 women were raped in an eastern town after Congolese troops fled there last month. Congolese troops, aided by U.N. peacekeepers have been battling the so-called M23 rebels for the past eight months in the resource-rich east of the country.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Congolese troops retreated to the nearby town of Minova when rebels captured the town of Goma on November 20. Kinshasa regained control of Goma days later when the rebels withdrew, but the United Nations said the situation remains "tense and fragile."

Known at MONUSCO, the U.N. mission was investigating alleged human rights abuses in and around Minova from November 20 to November 30. There were at least 200 interventions for people in the area, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky says.

"According to preliminary findings the U.N. mission has documented at least 126 cases of rape. The teams were also able to confirm the killings of two civilians, including one minor," Nesirky said.

"The Congolese Armed Forces have started investigating those human rights violations," Nesirky said. "To date nine soldiers from the armed forces have been arrested, two in connection with the rapes and seven in connection with looting."

The U.N. is working with the Congolese government to establish which army units the men belonged to so the world body could review any support provided to those units, he said.

"It would appear that most of those rapes were committed by FARDC (Congolese army) soldiers," U.N. Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters.

With more than 17,000 troops in the Congo, a nation the size of Western Europe, peacekeepers were stretched thin and the U.N. force was struggling to fulfill its mandate of protecting civilians.

In addition, the U.N. mission is also aiding the Democratic Republic of Congo combat fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report that here had been 180 attacks presumed to have been carried out by Kony's LRA guerrillas this year, saying that 138 of those attacks were in the Congo and 42 in neighboring Central African Republic.

"They resulted in the deaths of 39 civilians," Ban said. "A total of 193 persons have been abducted, 84 from the Central African Republic and 109 from the Democratic Republic of Congo. One third of the abductees were children."

Kony, accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for 20 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. His henchmen are accused of abducting children to use as fighters and sex slaves, and of hacking off victims' limbs as a method of intimidation and revenge.

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