By Amy Lieberman
Friday, August 27, 2010
Margot Wallstrom, U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict, was slow to learn of mass rapes in the DRC in July, which were carried out despite U.N. peacekeeping patrols. Now her first task as leader of the U.N.'s response is finding out exactly what happened.
UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)--Margot Wallstrom, U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, deployed a senior staff member on Aug. 25 to help find out what happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo in July, when more than 179 women were reportedly attacked and gang raped.
The attacks took place in the U.N. peacekeeper-occupied North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Wallstrom's aide will be supporting the fact-finding mission of Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare.
Wallstrom's first task, as head of the U.N.'s response to the violence, will be ascertaining exactly what occurred in the remote town of Luvungi and surrounding villages in the troubled east of the country.
U.N. troops stopped twice in the villages--first on Aug. 2 and then on Aug. 9--and were alert to rebel activity, but apparently unaware of any "suggestion at this point of an attack, much less of…the mass rape in the villages in the area" that had been committed against women at gunpoint in previous days and weeks, Roger Meece, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo, said this week.
The International Medical Corps, the only health organization in the region, had "indications something was going on in the village" by early August, Margaret Aguirre, communications director of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based group, said in a phone interview. Its workers soon after understood the attacks' full scale as "women who had been taken away, kidnapped and taken into the forest began to emerge."
"At first we thought it was maybe 10, then 20, then 50, then 100 women who had been raped," Aguirre said. "Many of the incidents involved multiple perpetrators."
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