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Ban Ki-moon urges action against sexual violence

posted 31 Jan 2011, 10:52 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 Jan 2011, 12:11 ]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned "rape as a tactic of war", as a new U.N. resolution aims to make sure that perpetrators of sexual violence were made to face the law.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged action against sexual violence on Monday (January 31), saying, "as leaders we must speak out, sexual violence thrives on silence and impunity".

His address comes after the U.N. on Friday (January 28) said armed men have raped 60 people in eastern Congo in the last ten days, the latest in a spate of mass sexual attacks in the region.

Ban was addressing journalists on the final day of an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and was accompanied by his special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom.

The secretary-general said he visited the Eastern parts of DRC and met female victims of rapes in the conflict torn area,

"The suffering will only stop when we attack the problem at its source. Some say the horrors of wartime rape are unspeakable, but as leaders we must speak out, sexual violence thrives on silence and impunity. This crime is not inherent to any one culture or continent, few of today's conflicts are free from these atrocities. That means our challenge is to prevent the cycle of violence and vengeance, discrimination and disempowerment, rage and recrimination, that give rise to rape as a tactic of war," said Ban Ki-moon.

Of particular mention was the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where two attacks took place in the villages of Nakatete and Kitumba in the Fizi area of South Kivu province from January 19 to January 21, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Reuters.

This was just the latest in a spate of mass sexual attacks in the region according to the U.N.

International health organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) treated 60 people, including men, women and children, who said they had been raped in the attacks.

Margaret Wallstrom, the new U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said a new U.N. resolution gave more powers to the United Nations to pursue perpetrators of the crimes.

"We would start to ask questions, are there rapes also, if there is sexual violence in these conflicts, how can we monitor and report that more effectively so that we know what we are talking about. We can do listing, naming and shaming of these groups and perpetrators. We can follow up through sanctions committees, visa bans, travel bans and freezing assets and we can make sure that we end impunity for the perpetrators," said Wallstrom.

Last year, fighters from the Rwandan Hutu extremist group FDLR were suspected to be behind the rapes of more than three hundred women in Walikale, North Kivu, over the span of several days. Earlier this month Congolese soldiers were accused of raping 67 people in the town of Fizi.

Those attacks caused an international outcry over the level of sexual violence in the region, where more than one hundred and sixty women are raped each month in North and South Kivu, according to U.N. figures.

The U.N.'s special representative on sexual violence last year called eastern Congo the rape capital of the world, a label the government has strongly rejected.