WASHINGTON (BNO NEWS) — The United States on Wednesday strongly condemned the mass rapes that occurred in mid-June in South Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the State Department said in a statement.
“Since we first learned of the attacks, we have been engaged with Congolese authorities, local and international non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations, including the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission to the DRC (MONUSCO) to gather the information needed to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
“In the meantime, our current assistance programs support survivors in the region, and we will work with our implementing partners in the DRC to determine how we can best assist the victims of this latest tragedy.”
Nuland added that the U.S. has repeatedly condemned the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict zones around the world and supported efforts to protect local populations, especially women and girls, against sexual and gender-based violence.
“The United States is committed to working with the DRC and we urge the Government to fully investigate, arrest, and prosecute those found responsible for these attacks,” she said.
The United Nations on Friday confirmed that government troops committed mass rapes in several remote villages in the eastern region of the DRC. A joint UN assessment mission found out that troops serving with the Congolese armed forces, known as the FARDC, raped at least 121 women and subjected villagers to cruel and degrading treatment around June 11.
The information was confirmed by residents of Nyakiele in the province of South Kivu who added that the soldiers attacked at least another village in the area in the past month.
The confirmation came just one day after the UN Security Council extended the mandate of MONUSCO, tasked with monitoring the ceasefire and disengagement of forces. MONUSCO replaced the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) which was set following the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in July 1999 between the DRC and five regional States.
A UN report, published last year, documented abuses committed between 1993 and 2003 in DRC, including more than 300 women, men, boys and girls systematically raped in North Kivu. It also pointed out that the weakness of the Congolese justice system is a major obstacle to ensuring justice for human rights violations.