DR Congo troops in rape and murder claim

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence, listens to villagers in Kitchanga, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Margot Wallstrom visited the Democratic Republic of Congo last week to hear first hand testimony from witnesses and victims of abuses

A UN envoy says government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) might have committed rape and murder.

The special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, said UN peacekeepers there had information suggesting soldiers had committed such abuses.

The alleged attacks are said to have occurred in the same place where rebels carried out mass rapes just weeks ago.

Ms Wallstrom urged the government to investigate the allegations.

She was briefing the Security Council on her visit to North Kivu province.

After the mass rapes in July and August came to light, UN peacekeepers based just 20 miles (32km) away were criticised for not responding quickly enough.

Analysis

"A dead rat is worth more than the body of a woman." That's the quote from a rape victim with which Margot Wallstrom began her report to the Security Council.

She also described communities reeling with shock after the rapes of elderly women, which shattered social taboos.

The reality is that eastern DR Congo itself is shattered, with both rebels and government troops preying on civilians. In such a context of lawlessness, what can be done?

Much has been said about improving the performance of UN peacekeepers who failed to respond to the mass rapes in July and August. But even at best they are not a substitute for a functioning government.

Ms Wallstrom's strategy has been to press for holding militia leaders accountable under international law. She therefore made much of the recent arrests of two rebel commanders, including one on a warrant from the International Criminal Court, calling this an important precedent which gave victims a "glimmer of hope."

About 300 civilians and more than 50 children in the Walikale region were raped by the rebels - many of them in front of their families and neighbours.

Ms Wallstrom blamed the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai-Mai militia.

The attacks had focused international attention on the endemic sexual violence in Congo and UN failures to deal with it.

Since then, Ms Wallstrom said government troops (FARDC) had been deployed to the territory to reassert control and to implement the president's moratorium on mining in the area, which is rich in minerals.

The UN special representative heard directly from locals on her visit last week and said UN peacekeepers in the area had also told her of rapes, killings and lootings perpetrated recently by government soldiers.

She urged the DRC government to investigate the new attacks and "swiftly hold any perpetrators to account".

"The possibility that the same communities that were brutalised in July and August are now also suffering exactions at the hands of the FARDC troops is unimaginable and unacceptable," she said.

Margot Wallstrom says civilians want to feel safe and protected

The BBC's United Nations correspondent, Barbara Plett, says Ms Wallstrom's warning underlines the enormous difficulty of protecting civilians in a region overrun by rebel groups, with an army made up of former militias.

The UN Security Council also heard a call for sanctions against a Rwandan Hutu commander known as "Colonel Serafim" who the special representative says is among those responsible for the July and August attacks.

Ms Wallstrom welcomed the recent arrests of two rebel leaders, saying this should serve as a warning that sexual violence would not be tolerated.

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