UN-backed Congo military offensive a ‘humanitarian disaster’

More than 1,000 civilians killed, 7,000 raped, and 900,000 displaced in operation to disarm Hutu rebel group, says report

Xan Rice in Nairobi
Guardian [UK]
13 October 2009

A UN-backed offensive to destroy a Hutu rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has had disastrous humanitarian consequences, with more than 1,000 civilians killed, 7,000 raped, and 900,000 forced from their homes.

A group of 84 local and international organisations today described the human cost of the attempt to defeat the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) as “unacceptable and disproportionate to the results it has achieved”.

With 1,071 FDLR soldiers having given up their arms since the start of military action in January, it effectively means that one civilian has been killed, seven women and girls raped and 900 people displaced for every rebel disarmed, according to the Congo Advocacy Coalition (CAC).

At least 6,000 houses have been burned down by rebels, some as recently as September.

Although many of the killings were carried out by Rwandan Hutu militiamen in retaliation for the offensive, Congolese government soldiers have also targeted civilians, the report said.

Marcel Stoessel, head of Oxfam in Congo, said military action needed to be immediately suspended. “This appalling violence is no accident. It is the result of the UN-backed Congolese military operation against the FDLR militia,” he said. “It is a strategy that is being supported in capitals and in the highest echelons of the UN.”

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