Africa

DR Congo officer Kibibi Mutware held over mass rape

Congolese soldiers ( file photo)
Image caption The Congolese army has previously been accused of human rights abuses

Authorities in DR Congo have arrested an army officer over a mass rape of civilians in the east of the country on 1 January, officials and the UN say.

Lt Col Kibibi Mutware is accused of leading the rape of more than 50 women in Fizi, in South Kivu province.

Col Kibibi has dismissed the allegations as rumours.

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

Tahirou Diao, a UN spokesman in Uvira near Fizi, said Congolese military officials carried out the arrest during a visit to Fizi by peacekeeping officers.

Maso'a Mwenembuka, head of Fizi's municipal administration, confirmed that he had seen Col Kibibi being handcuffed and driven away, along with about 10 other soldiers arrested in connection with the violence on New Year's Day.

Military and humanitarian sources say the events over the New Year period began when a mob lynched a soldier who had shot a civilian - allegedly in a fight over a woman.

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

The UN's humanitarian coordination office said the soldiers had stabbed 26 people, including a four-year-old child, looted more than 20 homes and shops and raped dozens of women.

Several residents of Fizi and a victim of the alleged rapes have accused Col Kibibi, the local commanding officer, of directing the violence.

But in a BBC interview this week, he dismissed the allegations and said the soldiers who had committed crimes had disobeyed his 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.