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United States vows support for UN efforts against sexual violence in DR Congo

11 August 2009 – The United States stands alongside the United Nations ready to face down the use of rape as a weapon of war in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a local UN-backed radio station during her visit to the strife-torn nation.

“Unfortunately, we have seen in the late 20th century and now in this century a terrible trend of using sexual and gender-based violence as a tool of war to intimidate and demoralize populations and to force them to flee their homes,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview with Radio Okapi.

She stressed that any bid to halt the scourge in the region has to “start with making sure that the military of the DRC does not engage in sexual and gender-based violence.”

Mrs. Clinton also underscored in her interview with the radio station supported by the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUC) the importance of ending impunity for military offenders, as well as cutting off funds to militias operating in the area and resolving the region’s underlying political tensions.

In his most recent report to the Security Council on sexual violence in armed conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that at least 200,000 cases of such abuse had been recorded in eastern DRC since 1996.

“But sexual violence is a problem across the country as it is in many countries and there have to be stronger laws against domestic violence [and] against criminal rape that happens on the streets of Kinshasa or any other city,” said Mrs. Clinton.

The Secretary of State called for robust prosecution, law enforcement and judiciary measures to “make it clear that this is unacceptable, that there is no excuse for it.”

The human rights record of the Congolese Government is “in desperate need of improvement,” she added.

“The United States, other countries as well as the United Nations stand ready to assist the Government in taking actions to both promote human rights and to punish violators of human rights and women’s rights, but there needs to be much more action and greater commitment from the Government.”

Mrs. Clinton is slated to meet victims of sexual violence when she visits a camp for displaced persons in the eastern province of North Kivu, where 400 cases of rape are currently registered every month, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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