Clinton to Meet with Victims of Sexual Violence



U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Congo's eastern Kivu region, Tuesday, to meet with victims of sexual violence.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says continuing sexual and gender-based violence in Kivu is "truly one of mankind's greatest atrocities."

"The entire society needs to be speaking out against this," Clinton said. "It should be a mark of shame that this happens anywhere in any country."

Aid workers estimate that as many as 400 women are raped every month in Eastern Congo - a region that has seen two wars and a variety of militia since the end of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

That has led to hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displace people in camps across the region who are victimized by both ethnic Hutu and Hunde rebels, as well as members of Congo's national army.

"We have to speak out against the impunity of those in positions of authority who either commit these crimes or condone them," she said.

The United Nations called on Congolese President Joseph Kabila to prosecute soldiers guilty of rape, by starting with five members of the military who it says there is solid evidence against. Three of those soldiers are being prosecuted. The two others are under arrest.

Clinton visits with victims of sexual violence at the Mugunga camp, which is home to more than 18,000 displaced Congolese. She says she will announce new programs to help victims of violence, but stresses that it is more important to prevent that violence as cross-border militia often operate with impunity.

"We have to keep the pressure on the government. And, we have to keep the pressure on the governments of neighboring countries - Uganda, Rwanda - so that altogether we can end this scourge of violence," added Clinton.

The United Nations estimates that there have been at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence in Eastern Congo since 1996.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says only by raising awareness, sensitizing communities and bringing an end to impunity will the girls and women of Eastern Congo feel safe again.

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