Praise for historic Congo rape conviction

11 December 2014 by Stephanie van den Berg

Former rebel leader-turned-general Jerome Kakwavu, became the highest-ranking Congolese military official to be found guilty of rape after a military court convicted him on that charge as well as charges of murder and torture. Human rights organizations last week hailed his conviction.

“It’s significant because the top brass in Congo seem untouchable for their crimes or those committed by troops under their command. Of the 187 convictions handed down by military courts for sexual violence between July 2011 and December 2013, recorded by the United Nations, only three were senior army officers at lieutenant colonel rank,” Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch said in a press release last week.

Kakwavu was a leader of the FAPC militia which ravaged the Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2004. In 2004, Kakwavu and his group were integrated into the Congolese army and he was given the rank of general, despite objections from human rights organizations. He was finally arrested in 2005, following international pressure, but it took until 2011 for his trial to get underway.

In its judgment delivered two weeks ago, the military court said Kakwavu had “a penchant for minors” and had his men round up girls especially for him to abuse. The tribunal added that it regretted that several other victims were too scared to file complaints, AFP news agency reported.

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