Clinton Condemns Mass Rape Of Women, Children In Congo; U.N. Investigation Continues

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday condemned the mass rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo and vowed U.S. help, Reuters reports (Allen, 8/26).

“This horrific attack is yet another example of how sexual violence undermines efforts to achieve and maintain stability in areas torn by conflict but striving for peace,” Clinton said in a statement released by the State Department. “Sexual violence harms more than its immediate victims. It denies and destroys our common dignity, it shreds the fabric that weaves us together as humans, it endangers families and communities, it erodes social and political stability, and it undermines economic progress. These travesties, committed with impunity against innocent civilians who play no role in armed conflict, hold us all back” (8/25).

In October 2009, Clinton presided over the U.N. Security Council Session where the U.N. passed a resolution that condemned sexual violence and noted “the importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians,” Reuters adds.

“Clinton said it was now time for member-nations to go beyond that resolution with specific steps to protect civilians from sexual violence and prosecute those who committed them,” RTTNews reports. “She vowed the United States would do everything it could to work with the U.N. and the DRC government ‘to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable, and to create a safe environment for women, girls, and all civilians living in the eastern Congo,'” the news service adds (8/26).

Meanwhile, the U.N. “Security Council demanded on Thursday that all steps be taken to prevent a repeat of a recent mass rape in Congo as council members voiced open dissatisfaction at the late response of U.N. forces,” during an emergency meeting on the issue, Reuters reports in a separate story. “The attack has stung the United Nations, whose peacekeeping force in Congo is its largest anywhere. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made protecting civilians and combating sexual violence central themes of his stewardship of the world body,” the news service notes (Worsnip, 8/26).

“The U.N. has confirmed 154 cases of sexual violence during the attack, which occurred about 20 miles from a peacekeeping base in eastern Congo,” PBS’ NewsHour’s blog, “The Rundown,” reports. “The Security Council agreed that peacekeepers in the area should have done more to protect the local people from the rebels – but peacekeepers have said that they were not aware the attacks occurred until 10 days later,” after being informed by the International Medical Corps. The post includes comments by Roger Meese, top U.N. envoy in Congo, and a statement issued by the U.N. security council (Cheers, 8/26).

NPR’s Morning Edition examines the questions surrounding why U.N. peacekeepers learned of the mass rapes “more than a week after they ended, and from an international aid group,” and what efforts are being made to find answers and improve communication on the ground as soon as possible, as described by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, following the U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday.

Ban “has sent top officials to investigate, and ambassador Rice said she and her colleagues have started brainstorming about how to step up communications between remote Congolese villages and U.N. peacekeepers,” according to NPR.

“In many instances, those procedures have worked; in this instance clearly they did not,” Rice said. “We need to know why and what mechanisms might be put in place to ensure that this type of horror is not repeated again and again.” The piece also includes comments by Rebecca Milner, vice president of the International Medical Corps (Kelemen, 8/27).

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