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DRC rebels hand over leader for rapes

media Reuters

The Congolese rebel group Mai Mai Cheka has handed over one of its own leaders, accusing him of leading his men in the rape of 303 civilians. Lieutenant-Colonel Mayele was surrendered to UN's Monusco peacekeepers and an army unit in North Kivu.

"It seems they [the rebels] were very unhappy with him, saying that he has tarnished their image and that they cannot have criminal elements in their midst," said Hiroute Gebre Selassie, head of the UN mission in North Kivu.

The mass rapes were carried out in July and August in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Hiroute Gebre Selassie, head of the UN mission in North Kivu 06/10/2010 - by Alexandra Brangeon Listen

"What they claim is that he did what he did without any instruction on their part and they wanted him punished for that," she told RFI. Gebre Selassie added that a number of villagers saw Mayele when the alleged rapes occurred, so he would be easily identifiable.

Mayele was arrested Tuesday morning and was handed over to the Congolese military tribunal, who have opened an inquiry on him, said Congolese Communications Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga.

Mayele "is a so-called colonel. He is just a warlord-- a chief of an armed branch of the Mai Mai Cheka militia," Omalanga told RFI.

His men handed him over "because they were under pressure from our army, from our partner, Monusco, and we think that the military pressure will give very good results," Omalanga says.

Monusco was criticised for failing to react quickly enough to reports that a wide-scale assault on the civilian population in the area was being carried out.

The UN human rights office issued a preliminary report on the incidents, citing that a coalition of about 200 Mai Mai Cheka, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels and fighters loyal to rogue Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva.

Nsengiyumva also had previous links to the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel group.

UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Atul Khare, told the UN Security Council that the UN had failed the mass rape victims, and that its action against what he called a growing "culture of sexual violence" had not been adequate.

"We think this is a very good signal for the victims and for those who think they can continue killing and raping without being punished," said Omalanga.


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