Rwandan and Congolese rebels reportedly gang-raped between 150 and 200 women and young boys during a raid of eastern villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month, humanitarian aids in the region say.
Rebels allegedly entered the town of Ruvungi on July 30 and proceeded to pillage the town and systematically rape its occupants for several days. “Most women were raped by two to six men at a time, in front of their children and their families,” Will F. Cragin, coordinator for the International Medical Corps’ program in the Ruvungi region, told the New York Times. During the attack, rebels blocked a road that connects the town to UN peacekeeping troops who are stationed 18 miles away, which prevented villagers from seeking help, Bloomberg reports.
While international and local health workers have treated 179 women with rape related trauma since the attack, the number of victims could be much higher as many terrified villagers remain in hiding.
Earlier this month the United Nations condemned mass rape as a weapon of war. Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told reporters that using rape as a tool of war is no more acceptable nor inevitable than committing mass murder.
At least 8,300 rapes were reported in the Congo last year, according to the Associated Press. It is believed that many more rapes go unreported. While insurgents are thought to be responsible for most of the attacks, soldiers in the national army have also been implicated in sexual abuse, according to United Press International.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited eastern Congo in 2009 to denounce rape as a weapon of war. Clinton said, “I will be pressing very hard for not just assistance to help those who are being abused and mistreated, in particular the women who are turned into weapons of war through the rape they experience, but also looking for ways to try to end this conflict.” War has ravaged eastern Congo since 1998.