UN troops failed to respond to rape of 200 women in Congo

NY Times:

United Nations officials had been warned about rape ocurring in a remote Congolese area much earlier than officials originally said, according to an internal United Nations e-mail and a humanitarian bulletin.

The United Nations’ beleaguered peacekeeping mission in Congo, which costs more than a billion dollars a year but has failed to stop widespread violence against civilians, has been harshly criticized since the news broke 10 days ago that United Nations peacekeepers did not respond to a rebel attack in which nearly 200 women were raped.

According to an e-mail sent within United Nations agencies on July 30, as the attack was unfolding, United Nations officials knew that the rebels had infiltrated the area and that at least one woman had been raped.

“The town of Mpofi, 52 kilometers from Walikale, has just fallen into the hands of the F.D.L.R. A woman was raped there,” said the e-mail, which was sent by the United Nations’ humanitarian office in eastern Congo to several other United Nations agencies and private aid groups. “Humanitarian workers are said not to go there,” the e-mail continued.

The F.D.L.R is the abbreviation for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a fearsome rebel group that includes former Rwandan genocidaires who have been hiding out in Congo for years and preying upon the local population. Over the next three days, from July 30 to Aug. 2, hundreds of F.D.L.R., along with gunmen from another rebel group, raped at least 179 women. Many victims said they were assaulted in front of their families, with up to six men raping them at the same time.

United Nations peacekeepers were stationed nearby, around 30 kilometers away, but none went to the area until Aug. 2, when a patrol passed through one of the stricken villages, though according to United Nations officials, none of the villagers came forward about the rapes.


Other United Nations officials said that it was fairly common to receive reports about rebel movements and that the Rwandan rebels had been in the area on and off since 1994, when Rwanda exploded in genocide.

Still, the criticism toward the United Nations’ Congo operations seems to be spreading, the latest blow to a peacekeeping mission that, since it began in 1999, has been hampered by corruption, thickly forested terrain, morphing rebel groups, sexual abuse scandals and complaints from the Congolese people and the Congolese government, which recently began pushing the United Nations to downsize the mission.

Based on their conduct or lack thereof it is hard to say what their mission is beyond sitting around and drawing a check from the UN. They do not seem to be much better than the rebels.


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