Stop_rape_in_DRC_Photo_by_CARITAS_GOMAResidents of several isolated rural villages in the eastern half of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who celebrated earlier this month when government troops expelled members of M23 rebel militia from the area, now say some government soldiers are terrorizing them with a campaign of rape and looting.
According to accounts collected this week by Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) from residents of Nkokwe, Rutsiro, Ntamugenga, Jomba, Mutovu, Rutakara, the rapes by some Government soldiers began soon after they forced the M23 troops from the area. The victims range in age from 18 to 75. Villagers identified several women who were assaulted by the soldiers and said many more are too afraid to come forward.
In addition to the rapes, residents told us the Congolese soldiers are confiscating cell phones, money and livestock, forcing residents at gunpoint to carry looted goods from their homes to government army posts.
Just over a month ago international news media showed images of popular demonstrations in the region celebrating the arrival of the Congolese army which many villagers credited with freeing them after months of M23 oppression.
Since April of last year M23 rebels brought widespread havoc to the eastern DRC, raping, beating, torturing and killing villagers. Witnesses say civilians were imprisoned in underground cells. M23 also imposed a weekly tax on each adult.
“I would rather pay the weekly tax we used to pay to M23 than to imagine my wife or my daughter being raped” by the government’s troops, one resident told us.
Residents also told us the Congolese government soldiers are detaining and demanding money from local residents whom they suspect of collaborating with the M23 rebels, in spite of promises by North Kivu province’s Governor, Julien Paluku, and the army hierarchy, not to retaliate against the local population, many of whom were forced to cooperate with M23 under threat of violence
Many local leaders, some of whom have fled the area, are hesitant to speak out about the Congolese army atrocities for fear of being labeled a M23 collaborator, a charge that could result in years in jail without trial, or even death.
Credible sources have told AFJN that the UN force which includes the new Intervention Brigade of some 3,069 well-equipped troops that was sent to the region is aware of the looting and raping by some government troops but has been reluctant to intervene for fear of undermining the recently reconstituted Congolese Army.
We urge DRC’s President Joseph Kabila to immediately halt the campaign of terror by members of the government Army and to hold those responsible accountable and assure that the victims are quickly and fairly compensated. We also urge the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC to set up a post in the hills between Rumangabo and Jomba with a focus on documenting and preventing human rights violations by the Congolese army.
However, AFJN learned from sources in Rubare and surrounding areas that in mid-November the army disarmed and removed the so called “commando Chinois” (which we suspect to be soldiers trained by the Chinese). They had been arresting and beating people, and stealing cell phones and money and causing serious insecurity.
We can hope that the congolese army will examine these and many other cases of injustice.
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