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Eastern Congo Rebels Raped at Least 154, UN Team Says

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Members of a Rwandan militia and other rebels raped at least 154 women in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo three weeks ago and then tried to keep them from spreading word of the attack, the United Nations said.

A joint UN human rights and peacekeeping team reported that elements of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, or FDLR, and the Mai-Mai Cheka group committed the rapes in the village of Bunangiri during the last week of July and first week of August, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York today.

The rebels blocked a road connecting the village to a company of UN peacekeeping troops 18 miles away, preventing the villagers from reaching the nearest communication point, he said.

“Victims are receiving medical care and have also been provided psycho-social care,” Nesirky said. “Gathering of information continues. We still don’t have a full picture.”

FDLR rebels have been living in eastern Congo since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, often preying on the population and exploiting the region’s rich natural resources. Some of the group’s Hutu leaders are accused of participating in the genocide, which killed an estimated 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.

Alliances With FDLR

The Mai-Mai, community-based militias formed to defend their local territory against larger guerrilla movements, sometimes form alliances with the FDLR.

“We know there are still serious problems in this region,” Atoki Ileka, Congo’s ambassador to the UN, said in an interview. “We have been aware of this scourge for more than a decade, this tendency to rape. It is degrading to women and we cannot accept it. We will do our best so that all perpetrators of these recent rapes should be brought to justice.”

More than 8,000 cases of rape were reported last year in eastern Congo, the UN said in February.

Conflict in Congo has killed more than 5 million people since the violence from Rwanda spilled over the border. The toll includes deaths from disease and hunger attributed to wartime conditions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner at the United Nations at wvarner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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