North-Kivu : a hundred women victims of rape perpetrated by M23 rebels (civil society)

North-Kivu : a hundred women victims of rape perpetrated by M23 rebels (civil society)

An association of displaced women indicated that more than a hundred women
claim to be victims of rape perpetrated by elements of the M23. Territories of Rutshuru, Nyiragongo and Masisi located in North Kivu (Eastern DRC) are plagued with violence following the fighting between the loyalist army and the M23. An M23 spokesperson denies these allegations, which are supported by the local civil society. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Many women there claim to be victims of rape orchestrated by M23 rebels.

“We are suffering. M23 rebels are raping us. When we go to the fields, rebels are raping us. So we can no longer cultivate our land. We are suffering so much and we are asking the government to dislodge these rebels”, says M.R, a woman from Rutshuru territory.

In the Bukombo groupment, in the Bwito chiefdom in Rutshuru territory, women, including those of the elderly, were also raped, then executed by M23 rebels in Gashavu, a village under their control, accuse local sources.

Héritier Gashegu, human rights defender in the region, speaks of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

“Two women were raped at Gashavu and a woman was beheaded and then burned in Kazuba in the same groupment of Bukombo”, charges the activist.

Displaced women are among the first victims of gender-based violence (GBV), according to local women’s associations.

A situation denounced by women displaced by war in North Kivu.

“We condemn rapes that are perpetrated against girls and women. More than a hundred women were raped by M23 elements, including two old ladies (60 and 70 years old). They were then executed by M23 rebels”, said Claudine Neema, representative of displaced women in this region of Congo.

Violence perpetrated against women is in violation of human rights and against international humanitarian law, she continued.

The council for the protection and promotion of rights of women and children says it has recorded 482 civilians killed, including 185 women, since the advent of the M23 in North Kivu.

Major Willy Ngoma, spokesperson for the armed wing of the M23, in an interview with SOS Médias Burundi denies these allegations.

“[…] You have to ask yourself the question : who carried out these investigations? Where exactly were the women raped? What day? You will realize that this is not our modus operandi. Why was no rape reported in Bunagana? Why was no rape reported in Kiwanja? Why did we not rape in big centers like Rutshuru-centre…but we have to go rape in Kishishe….I don’t know where else…”, he said.

And he continued explanations, “We, the Congolese revolutionary army, we spent four years in Uganda in a military camp. Ask Ugandans. We were in a district where there are beautiful girls, the Banyankole. For four years, the Congolese revolutionary army has never raped a single girl. Ask Ugandans. These are things they say to smear us and some organizations are looking for banknotes. It is false and archi-false. The M23 can in no way rape women”.

At the end of November 2022, Congolese authorities had accused the M23 of having killed at least 272 civilians in Kishishe, a village located in the territory of North Kivu. The Congolese minister in charge of justice had filed a complaint with the ICC (International Criminal Court) a few days later, accusing the rebellion in the same way as Rwanda.

The M23 had demanded an independent investigation into these massacres and accused Congolese authorities of “wanting to discredit us with the population”.

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