ANGOLA/DRC: UN Probes 770 Cases of Sexual Violence in Angolan Expulsions

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Bloomberg Businessweek
Southern Africa
Central Africa
Congo (Kinshasa)
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The United Nations is investigating more than 770 alleged cases of sexual violence against people expelled by Angola to neighboring the Democratic Republic of Congo since September.

Doctors have so far verified that 114 women and men were victims of sexual violence, according to the International Committee for the Development of Peoples, a Rome-based aid group known as CISP. More than 7,000 people were expelled by Angola to Congo during September and October for being in the country illegally, the UN said.

“What concerns us are not the expulsions, which are in many cases legal, but the violence that often accompanies them,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in an interview yesterday in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.

Expulsions of Congolese from its richer, southern neighbor are common. Last year, more than 150,000 people were forced from Angola between January and October, the UN said. Many Congolese migrants cross the border to work in Angolan diamond mines.

All of those expelled in the past three months had their possessions taken from them and arrived “almost naked,” Anotino Mangia, protection coordinator for CISP, said by phone from Kinshasa yesterday.

When migrants are expelled, some are subjected to full-body searches by police or military at the border to check for smuggled diamonds, Mangia said. The searches include vaginal and anal examinations, which are sometimes done “without gloves or without protection or with gloves used on others,” he said. Authorities occasionally go beyond what a typical search would require, Mangia said.

‘Sexual Slavery'

In some cases, women have been detained near the border for days in a situation Mangia described as “sexual slavery.” Others have been beaten, he said.

Angola's ambassador to Congo, Emilio Guerra, declined to comment when called by Bloomberg today.

In a separate e-mailed statement today, UNICEF called for “special protection measures and action by the relevant authorities on both sides of the border.” The organization said it hasn't verified the number of victims.