LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - More than 650 people have suffered sexual violence during mass expulsions from Angola to Congo in the past two months, according to a U.N. agency report seen by Reuters.
The report by the U.N. Children’s Fund UNICEF said 6,621 people arrived in two territories of Luiza and Tshikapa/Kamonia, in Western Kasai province, in two waves during October.
“The conditions of expulsion are still terrible. In many cases, sexual violence is reported and even cases of torture,” said the report, citing 657 instances of sexual violence based on evidence collated by welcome committees in the two areas.
Separately, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said doctors confirmed 35 other women had been raped, after examinations conducted in the Congolese town of Tembo near the Angolan border, adding that humanitarian workers believed the true figure was close to 100.
“We are not in a position to confirm in which country they (the rapes) happened, but we do call on the authorities of the two countries to investigate these accusations to find out whether the rapes took place and where,” said OCHA spokesman Maurizio Giuliano.
Neither Giuliano nor the UNICEF report mentioned who was behind the violence. Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende said authorities had not received any such reports.
“We’re not informed. We don’t know, these figures are not confirmed,” he told Reuters by telephone.
“There are expulsions, perhaps there are rapes but we have received no complaints and we don’t want to launch a dossier.”
The report comes after the international outcry prompted by the rape of at least 303 civilians in eastern Congo between July 30 and August 3 by rebel militiamen in the town of Luvungi.
The UNICEF figure for the total number of expulsions is likely to arouse fears of new tit-for-tat expulsions between Angola and Congo which reached an estimated 211,000 people in 2009.
Angola helped Kinshasa’s government fight off Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels during fighting between 1998 and 2003, which drew in several neighboring countries.
Deteriorating relations between the two countries followed disputes over border demarcation, offshore oil ownership and closer Congolese relations with Rwanda and Uganda, its neighbors to the east.
Editing by Mark John