February 21, 2011

An army colonel accused of ordering the mass rape of at least 49 women in eastern Congo has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Lt. Colonel Kibibi Mutware was found guilty of crimes against humanity for ordering his troops to rape, beat and loot the population of Fizi, South Kivu province, on New Year’s Day.

A military court in eastern Congo also sentenced three officers serving under the commander to 20 years and five soldiers to between 10 and 15 years.

The United Nations welcomed the sentences as army soldiers and members of armed groups involved in sexual violence often go unpunished in the strife-torn eastern Congo region.

“Not only did the Congolese authorities react swiftly to the Fizi rapes in January and apprehended a number of the alleged perpetrators, but by all accounts the legal process has been fair and efficient,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, said in a statement.

“The sentences send a strong signal to all perpetrators in the DRC and beyond that conflict-related sexual violence is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. It also shows that accountability for sexual violence is possible,” stated Ms. Wallström.

Lt. Colonel Kibibi Mutware is a former Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) rebel who was integrated into the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) as the result of a 2009 peace agreement.