Twelve officers were arrested on Saturday, weeks after the United Nations demanded the Congolese government to take action against the alleged army rapists.
The UN had threatened that if Kinshasa refused to prosecute the suspects, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), would end its collaboration with the army units accused of committing the rapes.
“The human rights division of the MONUSCO carried out an investigation and presented its results to the government and the army. We have a policy of conditionality regarding our collaboration with the Congolese army. If no action had been taken we would have suspended our collaboration with the said units of the Congolese army,” said Madnoje Mounoubai, the Monusco spokesman in Kinshasa.
On March 9, Congolese Defense Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo vowed to investigate allegations that government troops committed rape, saying there will be no impunity.
Ntambo told reporters that the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) carried out inquiries in December and February following battles between the army and the March 23 movement (M23), which briefly seized the main eastern city of Goma.
In February, Human Rights Watch said that several Congolese women told their investigators that “soldiers in official army uniforms forced their way into the women’s homes at night, pointed guns at them, and demanded money. The soldiers then threatened to kill the women if they refused to have sex with the soldiers or if they screamed for help. Some of the victims were gang-raped in front of their husbands and children by several soldiers operating together.”
The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 fighters withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.