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UN-backed troops raping and killing in Congo

Government soldiers backed by the United Nations are accused of raping, killing and looting in the same part of eastern Congo where gangs committed mass rapes two months ago.

In August, hundreds of women and children were raped in the Walikale area of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN – which had a base 20 miles from the scene of the attacks – admitted failing to protect the victims.

Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, put a temporary stop to mining in the mineral-rich area and sent thousands of army troops to reassert government control.

And now a senior United Nations envoy says the same communities are now suffering similar attacks by Congolese government troops.

Margot Wallstrom, who visited the central African country last week, said both villagers and UN peacekeepers reported rapes, killings and looting in the same area, by government soldiers.

"I am gravely concerned about the ongoing military operations ... in the Walikale territory and the implications for the protection of civilians," Ms Wallstrom said. "The possibility that the same communities who were brutalized in July and August by FDLR and Mai Mai elements are now also suffering" at the hands of the army "is unimaginable and unacceptable," she said, talking about the Rwandan-led rebels from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda by their French initials.
Speaking to the UN Security Council last week Ms Wallstrom quoted a rape victim who said: "A dead rat is worth more than the body of a woman."

She urged the Congolese government to investigate the attacks and "swiftly hold any perpetrators to account". She asked that the government put national police to the area to protect people and investigators. She said she had also asked UN peacekeepers to monitor and report daily on rapes and other sexual violence.

Ms Wallstrom also urged the UN to put sanctions on a Rwandan Hutu rebel commander over the mass rapes. She told the Security Council that a man known as Colonel Serafim was among those believed to be responsible for the attacks.

Some 303 people – 235 women, 13 men, 52 girls and three boys – were raped in 13 villages in the Walikale area, according to UN figures. Even in eastern Congo, which has been described as the "rape capital of the world", such numbers are shocking.

The UN mission in the area has to take greater care before entering joint operations with the Congolese army, said Oxfam’s Marcel Stoessel.

"Units should not be involved in operations without vetting those who could have been involved in past human rights abuses," he said.

Hayley attribution