According to the latest reports, 170 women were raped and beaten by rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this month.
The news of the rapes surfaced when humanitarian aid groups began receiving increasing cases of injuries and reports of sexual violence in the small town of Fizi. Located in the South Kivu region of the country, the town was the location of what aid groups operating in the area say was a mass rapes attack conducted over a two-day period. Women and witness confirm that rebel groups attacked a pair of villages in the eastern part of the country.
Last week, Megan Hunter, head of Médecins Sans Frontières’ mission South Kivu said:
“We have seen at this point over 100 cases of people who reported being raped or suffering other incidents of physical trauma.”
The rebels accused of the attacks include over 200 former rebels men and boys. According to the UN-backed Radio Okapi, the men had previously been integrated in the Congolese army but deserted their unit. The unit has a notorious past using sexual violence as a weapon of war; in February, nine soldiers from the same unit were convicted for the rapes of 60 women in Fizi on New Years Day.
It remains to be seen what, if any, action the United Nations will take in investigating these rapes or where the peacekeeping force tasked to monitor the region was over the two-day period the rapes were taking place. Many are skeptical that the diplomatic community will be able to change the sad reality that exists for women in the DRC. Last August, more than 300 women, men and children were raped by a coalition of rebel groups in the town of Luvungi and smaller villages in the North Kivu province within miles of a UN peacekeeping base.