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Spotlighting ‘Cancer’ Of Sexual Abuse In DR Congo

Spotlighting ‘Cancer’ Of Sexual Abuse In DR Congo, UN Aid Chief Calls For Global Pressure

New York, Sep 15 2006 7:00PM

Describing sexual abuse as “a cancer in Congolese society that seems to be out of control,” the United Nations’ most senior humanitarian official today urged the Security Council to exert pressure on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) armed forces to end the impunity for soldiers who commit sex crimes.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland told the Council, during a briefing following his recent visit to the DRC and other central African countries, that he does not believe the national armed forces are seriously tackling the problem.

“Military and civilian authorities are still virtually unaccountable for crimes against civilians… Although some military prosecutions have occurred, often because of the efforts of MONUC [the French acronym for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC], far too little is being done,” he said.

Council members and those countries involved in security sector reform in the DRC must step up the pressure on the Congolese military “to end this pattern of abuse and violence against civilians.”

Mr. Egeland outlined some of the harrowing crimes endured by women in the DRC, where the national Government has struggled to maintain authority following decades of civil war and misrule.

One woman told the Under-Secretary-General how she was raped repeatedly for more than a week by a group of soldiers who bound her so tightly that she has permanently lost the use of her hands. Another doctor explained how many women require extensive surgery because they are mutilated after they are raped.

Mr. Egeland visited a hospital in Bukavu in the DRC’s South Kivu province, where this year alone more than 1,000 women have been treated after they were raped.

“We don’t know how many more suffer without treatment in inaccessible parts of the province,” he said, adding he is also concerned about the impact of Congolese military operations in the east of the vast country. At least 500,000 people have become displaced this year, mainly because of an attack by Government forces against a miῬitia gῲoup.

But Mr. Egeland said he was heartened by some improvements on the humanitarian front, especially the fact that aid workers could now reach areas that had been inaccessible for years because of security problems.

He called on the Council to maintain the troop numbers and resources of MONUC, and to remember that the recent historic presidential and parliamentary elections represent “the beginning of the rebuilding process, not its end.”

Ends

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