- DR Congo - rape - United Nations
The United Nations has said there has been huge increase in rapes and killings in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo over the past month, a spokeswoman said.
More than four hundred rape cases were recorded in most of the province during the first three months in 2009. The number of cases are equivalent to more than half of the total cases registered there last year.
"This is a cry of alarm, we are shocked," said Elisabeth Byrs of the UN humanitarian coordination office, adding that there has been a "dramatic" resurgence in rapes and attacks in Sud-Kivu province, with civilians burnt alive in their homes.
"The insecurity is intolerable,” Byrs added. “We are seeing an extremely grave trend with rapes used as a weapon of war."
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a briefing note that civilians were "increasingly the victims of lootings, extortion, killings and rapes" committed by the Congolese army, and armed groups such as the Rwandan Hutu rebel FDLR and Mai-Mai militia.
FRANCE 24 correspondent Arnaud Zaijtman, who is based in Kinshasa in the DRC, says the report proves that a current lull in fighting between government troops and rebel militias has hidden the reality of increasing violence.
Some 1,128 homes were burned down in three villages during attacks in which 77 people were killed with machetes and knives then burned alive in one attack by the FDLR, Byrs said.
"There is terrible violence currently in Sud-Kivu, especially in the region of Kakeli," she explained.
According to Zajtman, “Combatants who were previously supported by Rwanda have joined the DRC national army – but they have kept many of their weapons and money to keep up their illegal attacks.”
“Rebels have taken advantage of the situation to take over a huge tin mine that will provide them with further funds,” Zajtman added. “There is a definite feeling that fighting will erupt again. And the rebels are taking advantage of the lull to get more funds and more weapons to fight.”