World

Congo mass rape results in arrests

Eight soldiers including an army colonel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been arrested in the rapes of dozens of women in volatile eastern Congo on New Year's Day, the UN reports.

More than 50 women raped in Jan. 1 attack

Eight soldiers including an army colonel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been arrested in the rapes of dozens of women in volatile eastern Congo on New Year's Day, the UN reported Wednesday.

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence, listens to villagers in Kitchanga, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in October. ((Katrina Manson/Reuters))

Lt.-Col. Kibibi Mutware has been identified by some victims and witnesses as the commander of the punitive mass rapes against residents of Fizi, a small town in the eastern province of South Kivu. Seven other soldiers were also arrested.

The non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders says it has treated more than 50 rape victims after a co-ordinated Jan. 1 attack that went on through the night.

The incident started after one of Mutaware's soldiers was killed in a dispute over a woman, according to the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders expects the number of established victims to rise as people return to the town, which was also looted. The victims, some of them young girls, fled into surrounding villages and forest.

Mutware claims his soldiers disobeyed orders, according to the BBC.

The UN peacekeeping force in the country has established an operational base in Fizi since the attack, in which one woman was beaten with a rock and another shot in the chest.

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, has called the vast African country the "rape capital of the world" and said after the Jan. 1 attack that the "impunity for these types of crimes must not be tolerated."

The number of women raped in the attack is likely higher than the number who will come forward, Doctors Without Borders said, because women fear being stigmatized by their families or being further harassed by armed groups.

Rape is a systemic problem in the country and often used as a weapon of war. In 2009 alone, Doctors Without Borders provided care for 5,600 rape victims in North and South Kivu.

With files from CBC News

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