Dozens of Women Gang-Raped in North Kivu Province
Dozens of Women Gang-Raped in North Kivu Province

The United Nations confirms dozens of women were gang raped over a four-day period earlier this month in eastern North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It says insecurity is spreading across the region, with armed groups looting and terrorizing local villages. 

The United Nations says insecurity in the DRC's eastern North Kivu Province is spreading, especially in the Walikale Territory.  It says armed groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and Mai-Mai groups, have been attacking villages, causing many civilians to flee.  

U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs tells VOA that between July 30 and August 3 the armed groups took control of the town of Luvungi.

During that time, she says they looted peoples' houses and went on a rampage, raping dozens of women in Luvungi and surrounding areas.

"A total of 179 cases of sexual violence were reported by the NGO [non-governmental organization], which now are taking these people in charge medically and also psychologically in the city of Lubonga," said Byrs. "Rape has always been used in the DRC as a weapon of war.  This is unbearable."  

Byrs says there has been an increase in rape and insecurity incidents during the past two months.  She says about 50,000 people have fled their homes during this period, bringing the total of displaced in the region to 100,000.

Byrs says armed gangs also are targeting humanitarian workers and this is seriously hampering relief operations for the civilian population.  She says attacks against humanitarian workers have increased by 50 percent during the past year.

"It is a situation, which is really of concern to humanitarian workers and to the civilian population as well because if we cannot deliver humanitarian assistance, if we cannot treat those people who have been victims of rape and traumatized.  If they cannot get the well needed assistance, in fact they are left by themselves," she said.  

Much of the fighting in North Kivu is precipitated by the gold and tin mines in the area.  Byrs says the armed gangs are fighting to gain control of the mines and their valuable resources.