Monday, 26 November 2012

Congo's Army Accused Of Rape And Looting As M23 Rebels Win Image War

Democratic Republic of the Congo government soldiers ride on the back of a truck, in Minova

Congolese soldiers 'drunk, angry and paranoid' in contrast to apparent order of rebels, but both sides accused of abuses.
"The soldiers came and they started to shoot and rape our women. They stole all the food and goods in the shops. They said if anyone spoke out against them, they would be killed."
The soldiers being described do not belong to a rebel militia running amok, instead they are members of the national army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The accusation was made by a resident of the town of Minova, who did not wish to give his name for fear of reprisals.
After M23 swept through the city of Goma last week and seized a satellite town 26 miles (40km) to the west, the Congolese army had mounted a surprise counterattack. It failed spectacularly. Thousands of army soldiers retreated to Minova, around 50km from Goma, with smashed regiments mixed up and leadership sorely absent.
They are visibly drunk, angry, paranoid and intent on demanding money and cigarettes from visitors and locals. Civilians describe the tension as unbearable and accuse the soldiers of rape and looting since their arrival last Thursday. A UN source in Minova backed the claims.
Mousinganga Siprian, an elderly man with a bad leg and crutch fashioned from a branch, said the soldiers had also killed people, though that could not be confirmed.
The Congolese army seems to be in a tailspin. The commander of the ground forces, General Gabriel Amisi, was suspended last Thursday after a UN report accused him of supplying weapons to illegal rebel groups.


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