Violence escalates in DRC

Between July 30 and Aug. 3, Rwandan and Congolese rebels besieged the village of Luvungi, in North Kivu and raped almost 200 women.

The rebels separated men from women and even children from mothers and began a mass rape with the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission only 19 miles away.

Timothy Donais, a global studies professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, gave some insight on the attack. “Although the UN has a chapter seven mandate to protect civilians in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], 19 miles is a long ways away. The UN’s ability to prevent this would have been highly unlikely,” he explained. While most rapists were found and tried, the UN is suffering from the political embarrassment. According to an article in The Independent World, an e-mail was sent out by the UN security and safety division the day the rapes occurred.

The e-mail told humanitarian groups to stay away from the Luvungi area because it was overrun with rebels, however made no mention of rape.

The UN has a very long and expensive peacekeeping mission in the DRC. Tens of millions of dollars were spent on creating democratic elections and attempting to restructure their government.

Donais continued to say that “the DRC is a big place and resources are not unlimited. Preventing rape there is as difficult as preventing rapes in western society. They might be expecting too much.”

The UN is insisting it could not have responded to an incident that it had no information about. Officials said that even when patrols did go through the towns several days later, rebels that still lingered, disappeared into the surrounding countryside and none of the residents spoke to anyone about what had happened.

As military activities increase, sexual violence increases and is used as a weapon to humiliate, intimidate and control the citizens of the communities. Donais added that “the rapes here and in other cases are partly to get a point across but could also be rebels and soldiers out of control. Many times drugs are involved and it is often used as a method of terror.”

This latest attack on the people of the DRC calls into question the effectiveness of the mission the UN is keeping in the Congo and whether or not it should continue.

“The thing is,” Dr. Donais said, “is that the government is just as bad as the rebel forces. With no international peacekeeping presence, it could just get worse. Can anybody really pull together a country as diverse and divided as the Congo and make it a single state again?”