Kinshasa - The United Nations said on Wednesday it would
investigate dozens of claims of rape by army officers and rebels in eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UN's mission in the country, Monusco, said that 126
cases of rape were recorded between November 15 and 30 last year in and around
Minova, in the restive eastern province of South Kivu.
Monusco will lead "an inquiry into rights violations by
the army and the M23" rebel movement, spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai said
He said the UN would "support judicial
investigation" into the violence and push "Congolese authorities at
the highest level to take appropriate action and ensure justice is done".
The rapes were reportedly carried out as the army retreated
from an assault by the M23 rebels on the regional hub of Goma. Widespread
pillaging was also reported around Minova.
The launch of the investigation comes as a separate UN
report into rights violations in the resource-rich east - home to a number of
armed groups - nears completion.
Its damning content has already led DRC's military to
suspend 12 officers, who could face charges, said Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for
the UN's peacekeeping operations unit.
Earlier this month, the UN and DRC signed an accord aimed at
reducing rape and sexual violence in conflict zones.
It includes providing help to victims of sexual violence and
reinforcing specialised police units that deal with protecting women and
Rape is widespread in DRC, with perpetrators including
Congolese and foreign rebel groups, but also the national armed forces, which
have been much criticised for their brutality against civilians and corruption.