Last year about 11,000 people were raped in eastern Congo, where violent sexual assault has become horrifically commonplace during years of conflict. Rape is rarely punished.
The figures are for ‘people raped’ because it is not only women (of all ages) but children – boys and girls – and adult men who are brutally attacked, often by gangs of armed men. And the figures are probably way too low because the United Nations can only count the ones who come forward to report attacks, not the perhaps 10 times more who don’t out of fear or shame.
So the conviction on Monday of a Congolese army officer is a welcome breakthrough. Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware was sentenced to 20-years for crimes against humanity by a court in Baraka, South Kivu.
Mutware was found guilty of ordering a night-long attack on the village of Fizi on New Year’s Day in which at least 60 women were raped; 49 of them testified before the court, one told the court Mutware himself had raped her for 40 minutes.
Eight of his deputies and troops were each sentenced to 10-20 years for taking part in the assault.
A crowd of a couple of thousands who watched proceedings at the open air court complained at the leniency of the sentences saying Mutware and the others should have been given the death penalty.