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UNHCR condemns sexual violence in Tanganyika, DRC

In this southeastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, against the backdrop of rivalry between armed groups, women and…

In this southeastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, against the backdrop of rivalry between armed groups, women and girls are subjected to “widespread and systematic sexual violence,” according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).This year, thousands of people have packed their bags in Tanganyika province to escape insecurity. According to UN estimates, as of July 2021, violence has caused nearly 310,000 people to flee to Tanganyika province. However, their quest for respite is turning into a nightmare.

 

“In the past two weeks alone, humanitarian partners in the health zones of Kongolo and Mbulula have recorded 243 rapes, 48 of which were committed against minors in 12 different villages. This represents an average of 17 assaults reported every day,” said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo.

 

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday, she said that “the real figures could be even higher, because reporting gender-based violence remains taboo in most communities. In addition to the severe physical and psychological trauma caused by rape, victims may face stigmatization and possible exclusion from their families,” she said.

 

According to the UNHCR, rival armed groups attack these vulnerable targets “in retaliation for military operations by the Congolese government” but also to compete “for mining areas, particularly gold mines.”

 

The UN agency’s staff, in interviews with displaced persons, reported “gang rapes,” the use of some women and girls as “sex slaves,” and demands for ransom from families in exchange for their freedom.

 

UNHCR and its partners are offering “psychosocial and medical support” to victims but “the ongoing conflict and the long distances to health centers make access to help extremely difficult,” Mantoo said.

 

The UNHCR spokesperson therefore called on the Congolese authorities “to urgently reinforce security in the so-called triangle of death area – which borders several localities between the provinces of Tanganyika, Maniema and South Kivu – in order to protect civilians, particularly women and girls, to allow humanitarian access and to take the necessary steps to ensure that investigations are launched and those responsible brought to justice.”

 

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