KIGALI - A United Nation expert yesterday said that the UN will push for the prosecution of leaders of rebel groups accused of mass rape of civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Margot Wallstrom, UN Special Representative on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict, singled out the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mai-Mai militia, saying urgent action was needed “before the trail goes cold.”
Addressing an informal meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, Wallstrom said that a list of names of targeted commanders suspected of being behind the mass rapes has already been drawn.
“The FDLR has time and again been responsible for grave human rights violations in the DRC. Accountability must begin with the commanders of these and other groups,” she said.
“We already have some names, such as Colonel Mayele, the Mai Mai Cheka chief of staff, and Colonel (Bizimungu) Seraphin of FDLR. These names are starting points and constitute leads by which we may also identify some of the other participants in the mass rapes,” she added.
The political and military leadership of the FDLR may also be responsible for failing to prevent subordinates from committing the mass rape of some 303 civilians in 13 villages in the Walikale region in Nord-Kivu province, the UN official said.
“We have a narrow window of opportunity before the trail grows cold and media attention fades,” stressed Wallstrom, who had earlier said that the leaders of militia will face war crimes charges.
During her week-long visit, the UN envoy will interview survivors and ensure that they get help in recovering from their ordeal. She will also look at ways to break the cycle of impunity in the country.
New reports indicate that abuses, especially rape and raids, perpetrated by the FDLR militia are on the rise.
In an interview with The New Times last month, 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 are remnants of masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed over one million people.