20 women raped in DR Congo prison riot

Tuesday June 23 2009

By JOSH KRON, NATION Correspondent

GOMA, Tuesday

Rioting former soldiers trying to escape prison in eastern Congo raped 20 female inmates before being dispersed by the national army, the United Nations has said.

Former combatants of the ongoing civil war in the Kivu region threw grenades and broke down walls inside Goma’s central prison, killing a prisoner and a guard and injuring 12 others, before being contained. No one escaped from the prison that has been filled to capacity and holds both male and female inmates.

The UN called on the Congolese Government to do everything they could to stop the violence.

“Monuc strongly condemns this attempt to escape and the violence it caused,” read a statement released Monday evening.

While it remains unclear as to who specifically was trying to escape, it is believed that members of former rebels groups, including ex-warlord Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP and the Mai-Mai militia – both of whom have signed peace agreements with the government – were involved.

A spokesperson for the UN would also not rule out the possibility of Congolese soldiers themselves, awaiting trial for crimes committed.

Rape has become common in Congo this year.

Humanitarian NGO Caritas says over 400 cases have been committed in the last three months alone.

Other numbers, less conservative, claim over 1,000 rapes have been committed in the eastern part of the country during the months of January, February and March this year.

Hutu rebels

In a most graphic case, a three-year old girl, who had been raped alongside her six-old-sisters at the hands of Hutu rebels in late May, died earlier this month in Goma, where the prison-escape attempt took place.

Congo has been in crisis since the end of the Cold War, which saw the country’s strategic value diminish greatly.

Opponents within the then Zaire stepped up demands for reform, which eventually forced dictator Mobutu Sese Seko out of power.