New reports indicate that abuses, especially rape and raids, perpetrated by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are on the rise.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Maj. Vianney Kazalama, the Congolese army (FARDC) spokesperson in DRC’s North Kivu Province, acknowledged the alarming developments and noted that the army was trying to increase its presence in the vast region.
“The FDLR raped 50 women in Walikale at a place called Mumbi in the past weeks. They also raped 70 other women in a separate incident, according to the reports that we have,” said Maj. Kazalama.
The FDLR are remnants of masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed over one million people.
Other recent reports note that the rebels looted villages and gang-raped nearly 180 women in a series of attacks between July 30 and August 3, in Walikale region of North Kivu.
“Walikale is such a huge area, even bigger than Rwanda. We normally protect towns and some villages but now we have deployed two more brigades in the whole region,” Maj. Kazalama added, noting that a single FARDC brigade comprises 1,000 to 1,500 troops.
U.N. forces are deployed in the region as well.
Stefania Trassari, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told VOA radio that the FDLR was joined in the attacks by Mai-Mai fighters, a Congolese group.
Maj. Kazalama also acknowledged this FDLR-Mai Mai alliance, noting that the Mai-Mai faction involved in the attacks is headed by Lt. Col. Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, an ex-CNDP officer who has refused to be integrated in the Congolese army.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he was sending Atul Khare, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, to the DRC to investigate the attacks.
In a statement read by U.N. Spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, Ban reiterated his “call on all armed groups in the DRC to lay down their weapons and join the peace process.”