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Rape continues to be weapon in Congo's war

Tony Karumba / AFP - Getty Images

Two rape victims from Nakiele village. Women were raped and robbed by an armed gang in the D.R. Congo's south-eastern Kivu Province on June 11, 2011. Over 200 women have reported being raped by soldiers last month in the DRC's south-eastern Kivu province according to medical sources on the ground. The Nakiele village Chief, Losema Etamo Ngoma told AFP that the rapes and looting were committed by at least 150 armed men under the comand of national army Col. Nyiragire Kilumishi a.k.a. 'Kifaru'. Kulimushi, a former member of the Mai Mai tribal militia, who ran away from a military base, south of Nakiele, on June 8.

Government troops raped more than 100 women in a single village last month, according to the U.N. human rights office. In isolation, this attack is horrifying. And to know that it is only one incident in over 15 years of rape being used as a weapon of war in Congo is just unacceptable.

The AP reports:

Government troops in Congo raped at least 121 women over a three-day period, then pillaged their village in the restive east of the country, the U.N. human rights office said Friday.

A spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the incident allegedly occurred June 11-13 in the village of Nyakiele in South Kivu province.

A U.N. team that visited the area "have confirmed that large-scale rape, pillaging and cruel and degrading treatment were committed in Nyakiele," spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

He said U.N. investigators would return to the restive region next week to gather more information on the incident, which was first reported by medical aid group Medicins Sans Frontieres last week.

Armed groups in eastern Congo have frequently used rape as a weapon of war. The region has been wracked by violence since Rwanda's 1994 genocide spilled conflict across the border. Hutu militias that participated in the massacres of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus sought refuge in Congo.

A U.N. report released yesterday says mass rapes could constitute a war crime. But to date, most of these crimes go unpunished. For example, only a single person has been indicted after raping last year involving more than 350 people including children.