While Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reported a mass rape in Fizi, South Kivu on New Years Day, Radio Okapi has also reported clashes between civilians and Congolese Army (FARDC) soldiers in the same town and on the same day.

Armed men raped 33 women on New Year’s Day in a co-ordinated attack in eastern Congo, according to aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“Women had been restrained with ropes or beaten unconscious with the butt of a gun before being attacked, some in front of their children,” said Annemarie Loof, MSF head of mission in South Kivu province.

“Up to four armed men were involved at a time and homes and shops were looted,” she added.

Rape is a recognized tool of warfare in DRC and especially in the Kivu region where there were 9000 reported cases of sexual violence in 2009. However MSF are quick to point out that all these figures are likely to be lower than the reality because the fear of stigmatisation or further harassment stops many women from seeking treatment.

Radio Okapi did not mention the mass rape but reported that FARDC soldiers seriously injured at least one civilian during an argument that then saw one soldier beaten to death. They report 1 soldier killed, 6 people wounded and shops looted.

Many people fled into the bush to avoid further attack and retaliation according to Celestine Kalume Mwana Sima the local administrator for Fizi. She called for calm and for the people to return and not fear any further retaliation.

Seven people have been arrested and investigations are under way.

These two reports seem to suggest that when unknown, armed gunmen perpetrate attacks the violence is then continued through clashes between the official army and civilians. Further, the two reports may suggest that looting is carried out by all groups.

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