Continuing Brutality and Violence Against Women and Girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Monday, May 4, 2009 11:21 AM

The UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) has issued a briefing on the displacement of over 100,000 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the last seven weeks.  Reprisal raids by the Rwandan Hutu militia called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the Lubero area of North Kivu have targeted many villages, leaving a trail of destruction, killings and rapes. 


"The FDLR are deliberately killing and raping Congolese civilians as apparent punishment for the military operations against them," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.  On January 20, 2009 Congolese and Rwandan troops completed a joint military action against the FDLR, which then reoccupied much of the region and launched a series of reprisal attacks, claiming villagers had betrayed them. 


Human Rights Watch researchers in the area say that survivors are hiding in the bush after the FDLR burned at least 300 homes to the ground.  With the latest upsurge in violence, the UNHCR estimates there are now more than 1.4 million displaced across the eastern DRC. Out of this total, almost a million have been driven from their homes in troubled North Kivu province alone by relentless fighting, general lawlessness, looting, destruction of homes and camps, killings and rapes. 


Human rights abuses by the Congolese army have also been reported.  Both the Congolese military and the FDLR have been implicated in the rapes of over 90 women and girls in recent months.  FDLR has wielded rape as a reprisal tactic against the civilian population.  Many victims, however,  have reported being raped by members of the Congolese army who accuse them of collaboration with the FDLR. 

"Congolese authorities need to discipline abusive soldiers to bring the rape and looting to a halt," said Van Woudenberg. "UN officials should be clear that its peacekeepers cannot support military operations where Congolese soldiers are committing abuses against civilians."

Compiled from:  Human Rights Watch News release, 29 April 2009, "DR Congo:  Over 100,000 Civilians at Risk of Attack;  IDP News Alert, 23 April 2009, "Democratic Republic of the Congo:  Over 100,000 displaced in North Kivu in two months" ;  Human Rights Watch News release, 23 April 2009, "DR Congo:  Children Burned to Death by Rwandan Hutu Militia"; AlertNet, 8 April 2009, "DR Congo:  Brutal Rapes by Rebels and Army".