Civilians face "double danger" in Congo, UN says

Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:04pm GMT

* Rapes by uniformed men go unpunished, UN aid official says

* Rwandan Hutu rebels also carry out reprisal killings

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 26 (Reuters) - Civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are caught between men in uniform who rape with impunity and Rwandan Hutu rebels who commit brutal reprisal killings, the top U.N. aid official there said on Friday.

Ross Mountain, United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the country, called on the Kinshasa government to halt sexual violence against women and girls and to prosecute army and police responsible for the "scourge".

Congo allowed thousands of Rwandan soldiers into its violence-ravaged North Kivu province in January to take on the Rwandan Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) based there.

Congo's own army is not a coherent force following the rapid integration of former militia forces known for sexual violence, he said. "Not all rapes and attacks against women are done by the military. But a very substantial proportion are done by men in uniform."

"So civilians in this context are very much caught in the middle. While there is a military operation to try to get rid of foreign armed groups in the country, the impact on the civilian population is dramatic and increasing," he said. "Unfortunately for the civilian population there is the double danger."   Continued...

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