News / Africa

UNSC Questions Peacekeeper Action in Congo

Larry Freund

Diplomats at the United Nations voiced their concerns on Thursday with the conduct of U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the past month when more than 150 villagers were raped.  

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement expressing its outrage at the mass rape of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo by rebels.  But the diplomats, after a closed-door briefing by U.N. officials, said there still are many unanswered questions about the attacks and the response of U.N. peacekeepers in the area.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the president of the Security Council, said not everything worked the way it should have worked.  He questioned the ability of villagers in the remote region to communicate with peacekeepers as well as the effectiveness of patrols carried out by the peacekeeping troops.

"Visits alone are not sufficient.  That was the clear feeling of members of the Security Council, that the terrain is such that simply a visit every other day or once in a week is not sufficient for having reliable information and to prevent such accidents from occurring," he said.

A senior U.N. official has been sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, to investigate the attacks.

United States ambassador Susan Rice strongly condemned the rapes.  She said the U.N. briefing on the attacks was disturbing because what was learned and what still needs to be investigated.  She said that when she visited the eastern DRC last year, she was told that peacekeepers had in place procedures to provide early warnings and rapid response.

"We learned today that in many instances, those procedures have worked.  In this instance, clearly they did not.  And we need to know why and what mechanisms might be put in place to insure that this type of horror is not repeated again and again," said Rice.

In its statement, the U.N. Security Council called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure that perpretarators of attacks are brought to justice.

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