Congo officer accused of rape returns to base

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A Congolese military officer in charge of soldiers accused of raping 170 women has returned to a military base with some of his men, but it is not clear if he will be arrested.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s government has said Colonel Kifaru Niragiye may have been behind the rapes after he and around 100 men deserted from a training camp where they were due to be integrated into the army.

Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the government, said on Friday that no decision had been taken as to what to do with the officer now he was back at the base in Luberizi, in South Kivu province, eastern Congo.

Much of the east is still lawless and awash with rebels and bandits, and the United Nations has warned that the scale of mass rapes in the region may constitute war crimes.
“It is not the re-integration of Colonel Kifaru and his men back into the army. It is about their return to where they came from. Now he is physically in the camp, the prosecution will make a decision tomorrow,” Mende said.

U.N. human rights investigators have confirmed that at least 121 women were raped by Congolese troops who attacked and looted villages in the east last month.

Jonas Tshiombela, head of a local civil society organisation in Congo’s east, called for an immediate trial. “He must be made an example of for all the others that may try and commit such barbaric acts,” he said.

Congo is home to some 17,000 peacekeepers and is due to hold a presidential election later this year but the country is still struggling to recover from years of war and misrule.