Africa

DR Congo army commander transferred after rape claims

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Media captionOne of the victims accuses the military commander of directing the violence

The army commander at the centre of rape allegations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been transferred to another post, the army says.

A spokesman said Lt Col Kibibi Mutware's transfer was made in response to demands by local residents of the town of Fizi, South Kivu province.

Lt Col Kibibi is accused of leading the mass rape of more than 50 women in Fizi on New Year's Day.

The commander dismisses all the accusations as rumours.

There have been numerous cases of mass rape in DR Congo's conflict but this is believed to be the largest single incident allegedly involving the army.

'Taking revenge'

On Wednesday, army spokesman Lt Col Vianney Kazarama said Lt Col Kibibi would be replaced with another senior commander in the Fizi area.

The spokesman said that the decision was taken by senior army officials in South Kivu and would be effective in the next few hours.

From an everyday fight between two men over a woman, violence escalated into a brutal punitive expedition by a group of government troops against the population of Fizi, according to several humanitarian aid workers and Lt Col Kazarama.

A group of soldiers then took revenge on the people of Fizi.

They stabbed 26 people, including a four-year-old child, looted more than 20 homes and shops and raped dozens of women, the UN humanitarian co-ordination office says.

Officials from Medecins Sans Frontiers and the local hospital said 51 rape victims had been already treated.

Several residents of Fizia and a victim of the alleged rapes accuse the commanding officer of directing the violence.

An internal report by investigators sent to Fizi by the UN peacekeeping mission Monusco and seen by the BBC also quotes local leaders and police sources who accuse Lt Col Kibibi of directing the atrocity.

But Lt Col Kibibi says that the soldiers who raided the town had disobeyed orders.

The 16 years of unrest in eastern DR Congo have become notorious for the widespread sexual abuse of women and young girls.

More than 300 women, men and children were raped by a coalition of rebel groups in the town of Luvungi and neighbouring villages in North Kivu within miles of a UN base in August.

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