DR Congo: Withdrawal of UN Peacekeeping Forces Will Hurt the Fight against Rape
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 4:20 PM

The recent push by the Congolese government for the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) from DR Congo has been met with resistance from international organizations, including the United Nations, who believe that a withdrawal will hurt the current efforts to fight against rape. Thousands of women were raped during Congo’s 1998-2003 war by both the rebel and government forces. A recent report commissioned by Oxfam and conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative shows that rape among civilians has risen, as years of impunity have made the crime more socially acceptable. The UN reports that last year alone at least 5,400 women were raped in South Kivu. Despite the advances that DR Congo has made in revising legislation to outlaw sexual violence, very little has been done to implement it.

While the peacekeeping forces are often criticized for not doing enough, Margot Wallstrom, the UN Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict, who is visiting DR Congo this week, said that they were making a difference. "Women used to be scared to go to the market. Now a lot of people go, and peacekeepers go with them. It has brought economic development to the region," said Wallstrom, referring to North Kivu province. (Reuters)

Compiled from: David Lewis, “U.N. Fears Congo Pull Out Will Hurt Fight against Rape,” Reuters (19 April 2010); Will Ross, “DR Congo Gang Rape Crisis ‘Spreading,’ New Study Says,” BBC News (15 April 2010).