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October 17, 2010

During a press conference held in Kinshasa on Saturday, Defence Minister Charles Mwando Nsimba expressed outrage at the remarks made by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, before the UN Security Council on Thursday.

 “There is already some information from MONUSCO [UN mission in Congo] peacekeepers on the ground that rapes, killings and lootings have been perpetrated by FARDC [Congolese army] soldiers,” Wallström told the Security Council, without giving any details or proof on the allegations.

Wallström was returning from a trip to eastern Congo, where at least 300 women and children were raped for days by Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels and elements of a Mai Mai militia in August, a few kilometers from a United Nations peacekeepers’ base.

The United Nations has been heavily criticized for its failure to prevent these rapes, especially in light of the fact that the UN mission had received information of the presence of the rebels in the area. The Congolese army is now conducting operations against the rebels accused of these rapes.

“I want to express here my deepest indignation and raise the strongest protests against these serious charges, which objective is to curb the momentum of our forces in their determination to eradicate the last irreducible FDLR and throw an unfair discredit on our forces. These remarks do not honor the UN,” Mwando Nsimba said.

He added that, if the UN has any proof of its allegations, it should provide it. “We have a framework for exchanging information with MONUC, or MONUSCO”. They can alert us at any time, he said, of any commander, or soldier, who is involved in human rights abuses. “It’s called zero tolerance, zero.”

“We are not here to cover any abuses by the FARDC, to the contrary. We continue to seek help in putting out of service any soldiers who may be involved in such acts,” Mwando Nsimba said.