DRC conflict: Castrating and using boys as shields

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Uganda has accused rebels of renegade General Laurel Nkunda who is fighting the Kinshasa government of committing crimes against humanity by castrating men and using civilians as human shields.

Stung by the revelations from refugees in western Ugandan district of Kisoro, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Minister, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, has called on the international community, especially the African Union, to move fast to resolve the crisis in the neighbouring Congo Democratic Republic.

“Rebels are (committing) all sorts of atrocities against civilians. They are castrating men, using civilians as shields against attacks from government forces and wanton killings.

“I was told by a UN official who is in Goma that they have evidence of boys being castrated,” Prof. Kabwegyere said in statement on the situation of Congolese refugee influx into Uganda on Thursday.

He was flanked by the UN refugee agency’s representative to Uganda, Mr. Stefano Severe.

Meanwhile, Congolese female refugees are accusing Ugandan men along the border of sexually harassing them.

Reports on local radio stations said men in Ishasa, Kanungu District, have taken advantage of the hapless Congolese women to raid their temporary shelter at night and rape them.

However both Uganda authorities and UNHCR have denied knowledge of the allegations and instead have called on whoever has got credible information to forward it to the authorities so that the perpetrators can be apprehended and punished.

UNHCR spokesperson Roberta Russo said although there have been reports of sexual harassment by the Laurent Nkunda’s rebels within DRC, ”we would be in the know if it was a phenomenon (at the Ugandan border.”

Since violence broke out two weeks ago in restive eastern DRC, UNHCR has settled 1,000 refugees in camps located over 150-kilometres from the porous border with Uganda.

Over 7,000 remain unsettled.

Some of the refugees are however resisting the relocation, citing poor handling by UNCHR.

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