KINSHASA — In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at least 70 rape victims have been receiving treatment in the small town of Minova, which was recently looted by men in military uniform, according to the United Nations. The DRC army has a large base in Minova and says it has arrested several soldiers there suspected of rape and looting.
Minova, a town in South Kivu province, is where units of the Congolese army regrouped after they were defeated by M23 rebels in the battle for Goma last month.
The situation in Minova was chaotic at the end of last month with reports that soldiers were fleeing the area and looting the town as they passed through.
The United Nations says the rape victims may have come some distance from the town, and while the perpetrators were mainly armed men, they could have been from various groups.
"Minova is a border town with North Kivu. It was probably the nearest place where some of these women could get treatment," said Yvon Edoumou, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the DRC. "The information we have is that most the abuses, whether rape or other crimes, were perpetrated by armed men, men in uniform. It’s hard for us to distinguish who exactly - and frankly that’s not very important for us. What is important is that these women have suffered and they need all the assistance they can get to get back on their feet."
The new commander of the DRC’s land forces, General Francois Olenga, called a meeting of senior officers in Minova last week at which he called for respect for the army code of good conduct and human dignity.
The United Nations' Radio Okapi said the army had recognized its men were responsible for rapes and theft in Minova and suspects had been arrested.
The M23 rebels and other armed groups are also facing accusations of serious human rights abuses committed in recent weeks. The government has accused M23 of being responsible for 64 murders during their brief period in control of Goma.
The U.N. has said it is investigating reports of some 50 serious human rights violations committed while M23 controlled the city.