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UN outlines steps to boost civilian protection in DR Congo in the wake of mass rapes
UN News
7 September 2010
 
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has taken several measures to improve the protection of civilians in the east of the country following the recent incidents of mass rape, but establishing State authority in conflict-affected areas would be the most effective way to end lawlessness and violence, a senior UN official said today.
 
Outlining to the Security Council some of the actions that the mission, known as MONUSCO, had taken, Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary-General in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), said the force last week launched an operation known as Shop Window, intended as a show of force and protection civilians measure in the areas of Pinga, Kibua and Walikale in North Kivu province, where the latest mass rapes took place.
 
The operation, carried out by some 750 peacekeepers with the support of attack and observation helicopters, is also aimed at providing security cover to efforts by national authorities to apprehend those suspected of committing the rapes (…)
 
(…) The Assistant Secretary-General voiced disappointment that the UN was unable to offer protection to the victims of the recent rapes. “While the primary responsibility for protection of civilians lies with the State, its national army and police force, clearly we have also failed. Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalisation of the population of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better,” he said (…)
 
Mr. Khare stressed that the perpetrators of rampant sexual violence in eastern DRC must be quickly brought to justice. “MONUSCO will make all efforts, including a more aggressive posture of peacekeepers, force multipliers such as [MONUSCO’s] Radio Okapi, information-gathering on these people and the like, to assist the efforts of the Government of DRC in this direction.”(…)
 
(…) The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence, Margot Wallström, made an impassioned plea for justice and protection of those subjected to the brutality of rape, urging the UN and the international community to act decisively.
 
“We can not turn back time for the victims of Kibua, or for countless other survivors of brutal acts of organised sexual violence. As we strive to help these survivors, we must do our utmost to ensure there are no more victims,” said Ms. Wallström. ‘These unconscionable acts must spur every one of us as protection ‘duty bearers’ to immediate and concerted action. This is our collective responsibility to the survivors; and, our collective signal to the perpetrators who are watching and waiting to see how the world will react. Our policies of ‘zero tolerance’ cannot be backed by a reality of ‘zero consequences’,” she said.
 
Ms. Wallström said the UN cannot afford to shy away from confronting its own shortcomings, saying an examination of its actions, in a spirit of transparency and accountability, must form the basis for improving civilian protection in future.
 
“We must confront squarely the fact that we were slow to respond to existing information” (…)
 
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