Over the past few weeks, there’s been much discussion of the aftermath of the mass rapes in Luvungi, a town in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the role of the UN peacekeepers who were stationed nearby. UN peacekeepers have increasingly come under fire for their apparent inability or unwillingness to protect civilians from violence.
It’s possible that the harsh criticism that came in the wake of these attacks was part of the impetus for the arrest of Lt. Col Mayele of the Mai Mai Cheka rebel group, who was captured in a joint effort between UN peacekeepers and the army in the DRC.
At the end of July and the beginning of August, up to 500 women were brutally raped by rebel forces. UN peacekeepers, it was later revealed, knew that some violence was occurring in the village as it was going on, although they did not know the scale. Their inaction was, however, devastating.
A doctor from the International Medical Corps told Reuters, “Men saw how they raped their wives, sons saw how they raped their mothers. Everyone in these villages is now very withdrawn and cold and in need of psychological assistance.”
The UN’s representative on sexual violence, Margot Wallstrom, said that the arrest of Lt. Mayele was a “victory for justice.” She also said that the UN mission needed greater resources, and that if these attacks continued, the violence would “brutalise the whole society, from generation to generation, and destroy all the values, all the standards.”
The whole incident reveals that although the UN does need more support, peacekeepers need to be more vigilant about investigating reported violence, and refuse to allow the appalling violence in a conflict zone like the DRC harden them so that they don’t ignore rape simply because it’s only happening to a few women.
You can sign the petition, telling the UN to end rape and violence in the DRC.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.