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.