At least 99 women were raped between early September and November this year in Butembo (North Kivu Province), in the east of the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), media reports said.
The city of Butembo, located some 1 795 km from the capital Kinshasa near the Uganda border, has a population of about 1.1 million.
“The months of September, October and November 2016 have been a real ordeal for the people of Butembo and its surroundings [where at least] 99 cases of rape have been recorded,” Edgar Mateso, first vice-president of the Civil Society of Butembo, told AFP.
The number could be higher given that many victims, age between 12 and 17, were reluctant to report their ordeal for fear of being stigmatised by the community.
Millions of women in the east and north-east of DRC, a vast and troubled nation ruled with iron-fist by President Joseph Kabila since 2001, have been sexually abused and killed amid a climate of impunity, state corruption and human rights violations, and a ‘toothless’ MONUSCO (UN Mission in the DRC), which has over 20 000 peacekeepers in the country.
Perpetrators of these massacres include government troops, and local and foreign rebels. There are over 50 rebel groups operating in the east of the DRC, according to the UN, which has called DRC the epicentre of rape as a weapon of war.
A new study published in 2011 by the American Journal of Health had found that 1 152 women were raped every day – a rate equal to 48 per hour – between 2003 and 2010 in this part of the DRC, a country described by experts as the worst place on earth to be for a woman.
Photo: A young victim in the east of the DRC. Rape victims’ age range between 12 and 70. credit: Guardian UK/Spencer Platt/Getty Images