In late July and early August, a Hutu rebel group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or F.D.L.R., and Congolese militia raided a number of villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu Province, raping as many as 150 women and men.
Sexual violence in the DRC’s eastern provinces is an epidemic. And the F.D.L.R., which has been terrorizing the Eastern Congo for over a decade, is just one of many rebel groups that continue to employ systematic rape as a tactic and means to oppress the people there.
Sexual violence harms more than its immediate victims, however. It denies and destroys our common dignity, it endangers families and communities, it erodes social and political stability and it undermines economic progress.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to the DRC last year and witnessed the damage these actions have caused first-hand. As a result of her trip, the U.S. contributed an additional $17 million to aid rape survivors and to thwart sexual violence in Congo. That builds on the U.S. government’s continued efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC.
The U.S. condemns rapes and attacks that occur against innocent civilians. Secretary Clinton presided over a session of the United Nations Security Council in which a resolution was unanimously adopted that underscored the importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians. She recently urged the international community to build on this action with specific steps to protect local populations against sexual and gender-based violence and bring to justice those who commit such atrocities.
The attacks, some of which took place within 6 kilometers of a U.N. peacekeepers' base, have raised international concerns that neither the Congolese government nor the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces are able to protect Congolese citizens.
Outraged by this horrific incident, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dispatched 2 top officials to coordinate the UN response and follow up on the incident. The UN Security Council will meet soon to be briefed on their findings.