Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News Editorials & Other Articles General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


(34,658 posts)
Tue May 14, 2013, 10:25 AM May 2013

U.S.-trained Congolese troops committed rapes and other atrocities, U.N. says

Courtesy of U.S. Air Force - U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Christopher K. Haas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, returns the salute of Lieutenant Colonel Pepe Tongawa in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo

By Craig Whitlock, Published: May 13
A Congolese army battalion that received its formative training from the U.S. military went on to commit mass rapes and other atrocities last year, a U.N. investigation has found. Members of the 391st Commando Battalion, a unit created in 2010 with extensive support from the U.S. government, joined with other Congolese soldiers to rape 97 women and 33 girls as they fled a rebel advance in eastern Congo in November, according to the United Nations.

U.S. Special Operations forces had spent eight months training the 750-member battalion in a bid to professionalize Congo’s ragtag military, which has a long history of rights abuses, including raping and killing civilians. The training program, dubbed Operation Olympic Chase, was led by the State Department and the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent. Two years later, members of the battalion joined other Congolese soldiers to rape and rob scores of civilians in Minova, a town in eastern Congo, according to an investigative report released last week by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office. The attacks occurred as Congolese forces were chased out of Goma, a key provincial capital, by a rebel group known as M23.

On Monday, the State Department acknowledged that some U.S.-trained soldiers “may be implicated in these rapes,” according to an e-mailed statement from a spokeswoman, Hilary Renner. “We condemn these crimes unequivocally and call for a full and credible investigation” by the Congolese government, she added. “You have enhanced your moral understanding of how a professional military operates effectively within a democratic society to provide security, to protect the civilian population and to contribute to greater stability,” Samuel Laeuchli, the ranking U.S. diplomat in the Congo at the time, said in a speech at the 391st Battalion’s graduation. Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, said the U.S. government underestimated what it would take to reform the Congolese armed forces.

“The state of the army in itself is a disaster, so you train people and you send them back to a dysfunctional army,” he said. “You are trained, but you still have a very low wage, no logistics, a very poor command system and no sense of belonging and cohesion because the Congolese army is still a patchwork of very different groups. Even if you’re trained, at the end of the day, you’re still an hungry and unpaid soldier.”... The U.N. findings represent another setback in the U.S. military’s efforts to train and equip troops in Third World countries, many of which have poor human rights records.

1 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies
U.S.-trained Congolese troops committed rapes and other atrocities, U.N. says (Original Post) undeterred May 2013 OP
If U.S.-Trained Troops in the Congo Rape 6-Year-Olds, How Do We Train Troops? undeterred May 2013 #1


(34,658 posts)
1. If U.S.-Trained Troops in the Congo Rape 6-Year-Olds, How Do We Train Troops?
Wed May 15, 2013, 10:42 AM
May 2013


Troops of the Congolese Army trained by a U.S. Special Forces team went on to commit mass rape and murder of women and children while fleeing rebel forces last year, according to a new United Nations report, raising questions not just about these particular atrocities but surrounding the United States's Africa Command operations in general.

The U.N. revealed on Monday that some Congolese forces committed "mass rape, killings, and arbitrary executions and violations resulting from widespread looting," according Al-Jazeera. The accusation drawing the most attention is that troops raped 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6 years old, in the town of Minova while fleeing rebel fighters over a two-day period in November 2012. So far only 11 Congolese soldiers have been arrested by the Congolese military prosecutor's office, two for murder and two for rape, according to the report. The other charges haven't been explained.

The Washington Post reports in today's paper that "members of the 391st Commando Battalion, a unit created in 2010 with extensive support from the U.S. government," took part in the atrocities. The U.S. Special Forces spent eight months training the 750 person battalion in an effort to "professionalize Congo's ragtag military" two years ago. Military commanders lost control of their troops as they were fleeing in defeat from M23 rebel fighters, and that's when the atrocities began. Stars and Stripes outlines how this is only the latest incident that may change how the U.S. military operates in Africa: The atrocities underscore the dilemma policymakers face as they determine whether to engage with unreliable militaries in volatile parts of Africa. For example, in the wake of last year’s coup in Mali, led by a U.S-trained Malian soldier, AFRICOM officials have acknowledged that future training must be more focused on values and rule of law, not just tactics.

State Department spokeswoman Hilary Renner said some U.S.-trained soldiers "may be implicated in these rapes," in a statement. "We condemn these crimes unequivocally and call for a full and credible investigation." Tanzanian troops arrived in Congo over the weekend as a new U.N. intervention group attempts to make good on new peacekeeping promises in the nation.

Latest Discussions»Editorials & Other Articles»U.S.-trained Congolese tr...