Congo Arrests Senior Army Commander Over Rapes

Jan 22, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.
An 18-year-old victim of sexual violence recuperates in a hospital near Goma, Congo. (Photo: Reuters)

Rape has long been a weapon used against women in conflict-ravaged Congo, especially in the eastern provinces. The reprehensible truth is that members of Congo's armed forces often act with impunity, raping the very citizens they are meant to protect.

But on Friday, Reuters reported that a senior military commander, Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutwara, had been arrested by his own soldiers for ordering another group of his men to rape at least 50 women in a New Year's Day attack in eastern Congo.

Members of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the region reported seeing Mutwara led away to detention.

The BBC reports that Mutwara's alleged attack is the largest known atrocity tied to the nation's armed forces, in a region where infamy is commonplace.

It is estimated that every eight minutes, a woman is raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So what triggered Mutwara's command to rape? According to news reports, a dispute escalated from a fight between a civilian and a soldier over a woman. A mob lynched the soldier, and Mutwara allegedly ordered his men to retaliate.

In August, an estimated 200 to 300 women were raped by rebel forces in the town of Luvungi, which is just a few miles from a U.N. peacekeeping base. The New York Times led their coverage of the atrocity by reporting that one of the victims was 80 years old.

Last year, actress Sienna Miller traveled to the Congo to raise awareness of the plight of women in the ravaged country, and kept a diary of her trip for TakePart. 

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