ABA ROLI Responds to the Walikale Mass Rape Crisis in Congo

January 2011

Beginning on July 29, 2010, militia groups in the Walikale region of Congo’s North Kivu Province engaged in a four-day raid of 13 villages. By the end of their campaign of horror, 303 men, women and children were raped—often repeatedly—while another 116 people were abducted and 946 homes were looted. Reports indicate that children just one month old were raped as part of this appalling mass rape.

Mineral-rich Walikale, one of North Kivu’s six northwest territories, has been home to multiple armed groups since 1996, including factions of the Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda and the Mayi Mayi militia. While no group has publicly taken responsibility for the summer incident, officials believe it was members of these groups that perpetrated the violence. Lieutenant Colonel Sadoke Kokunda Mayele, a leader in the Mayi Mayi group, has been arrested and is being held in custody.

After the incident, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) coordinated with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the International Medical Corps to deploy mobile legal and psychological aid clinics to the Walikale townships of Kampala, Mubi, Luvungi and Osokali. While there, the team provided direct legal and psychological counseling to 53 gender-based violence (GBV) survivors. The team also shared information about the services available to survivors of the mass rape and about ongoing efforts to improve security in the region. The ABA ROLI mobile court program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

ABA ROLI staff attorneys, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, immediately filed 53 cases with the Operational Military Prosecutor’s Office, which is tasked with investigating and prosecuting GBV cases in Walikale. The attorneys also accompanied the survivors on their interviews with investigators.

Following those initial consultations, the attorneys and psychologists have continued to assist GBV survivors in the affected areas, providing legal and psychological counseling to a total of 147 Walikale GBV survivors and filing 108 related cases. In many instances, the psychologists and attorneys work with survivors with the aim of preserving their testimony for later proceedings against those ultimately arrested for the violence.

In November, the Operational Military Prosecutor’s Office requested that ABA ROLI continue providing legal and psychological assistance and coordinating with partners to facilitate rape prosecutions in the region.

To learn more about our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <rol@americanbar.org>.

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