UNITED NATIONS // Democratic Republic of Congo troops raped at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6, in the country's volatile east after they fled from advancing M23 rebels, according to a UN report released yesterday.
The majority of the rapes by the Congolese army (FARDC) occurred in Minova during a two-day period in late November, and most cases documented by the UN Joint Human Rights Office, part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, were committed in the same manner.
"FARDC soldiers entered houses, usually in groups of three to six and, after threatening the inhabitants, looted whatever they could find," the report said.
"One or two of the soldiers would leave with the looted goods and at least one would stand guard as the remaining FARDC soldiers raped women and girls in the house. Most victims were raped by more than one soldier."
Twelve senior officers, including the commanders and deputy commanders of the 41st and 391st battalions, have been suspended over the Minova incidents and "were to be put at the disposal of military justice authorities."
The 391st battalion was trained by the United States in 2010 as "a model for future reforms within the Congolese armed forces," according to the US Africa Command website.
The report said the UN threatened on February 4 to withdraw support for battalions 41 and 391 over the accusations of rights abuses in Minova but decided to continue working with them after the commanders and deputy commanders were suspended.