After a decade of slaughter, now an epidemic of sexual violence
By far the world's most devastating recent conflict has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), where over 5 million people have lost their lives in the last decade. Although there is now a signed peace agreement between warring government and rebel factions, violent conflict has raged on in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and huge numbers of women and children continue to be targeted for rape and sexual violence.
In the North and South Kivu provinces, rape is commonly used as a weapon to terrorize and subjugate the local population. According to the United Nations, there have been more than 32,000 rapes registered in South Kivu since 2005. The problem of sexual violence has worsened in particular in North Kivu in recent months, with an escalation of violence between government and rebel troops that has displaced about 400,000 people.
According to a UN report on sexual violence in DRC, a new trend to this crisis is emerging. In previous years the primary perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual violence were soldiers, whereas today these acts are increasingly being committed by civilians. Civilians reportedly account for 60 percent of the acts of sexual violence, nearly double the figure in 2006.