Friday, November 30, 2007


Even the youngest children are not spared from violence. An 11-month-old baby girl has died in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a day after she was raped, the UN says. The alleged rapist, a man aged 20, has been detained by Congolese police about 140km west of Goma. He faces a life sentence.

Reports of the atrocity came as the Red Cross held a news conference in Geneva to denounce the "systematic violence" against girls and women in DR Congo. Aid workers blame combatants on all sides for a culture of sexual violence. ICRC official Dominik Stillhart said that in his recent visit to eastern DR Congo, he found some 370,000 people had been driven from their homes since fighting resumed in December between the army and fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda.

"What really shocked me personally the most, was the systematic violence especially against women and girls which is producing immense suffering," Mr Stillhart said. The UN Mission in Congo (Monuc), which told the BBC of the latest rape atrocity, have themselves been accused by lobby group Human Rights Watch, of failing to act against the widespread use of rape against civilian victims of all ages. The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman heard the harrowing story of one young victim.

Victims say the army dispenses summary justice to rapists. A six-year-old girl named Mushika told our correspondent she was looking after goats in her village when a soldier grabbed her and abused her. "He laid me on the ground and lifted my skirt... I was trying to shout but he put his hand on my mouth. After he had finished, he ran away. When I tried to walk, I was dizzy." When the girl's mother discovered what happened she took the child to the military camp where she was asked to point out the man.

"The soldier was then shot in front of me," Mushika said, "but later his uncle came to our home and threatened to kill the whole family to take revenge." Some 15,000 UN peacekeepers are in DR Congo to secure peace after a five-year conflict officially ended in 2002.

But violence continues to rage in the east.



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