Angolan soldiers accused of 'systematic' rape

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said this week that Angolan soldiers have raped, beaten and tortured illegal Congolese migrant workers before deporting them across the border.

The French humanitarian group said the rights abuses were occurring in the diamond-rich northern Angolan province of Luanda Norte, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It described the rapes as “pervasive and systematic”.

“The women and men are separated. The rapes are very systematic and the men are also beaten up and tortured,” Meinie Nicolai, MSF’s director of operations, said in a press conference in Johannesburg.

Nicolai said on Wednesday that some migrants had died as a result of the violence, while others had been exposed to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Many victims said they were detained at the border without food and water and forced to endure body cavity searches, she added.

An estimated 400 000 Congolese live in northern Angola, with a large number of them employed illegally in mines.
Angola, Africa’s third largest diamond producer, has ramped up efforts to expel the migrants.

An estimated 44 000 have been sent back to the DRC in the past year, according to the United Nations.

MSF said its findings were based on interviews conducted with at least 100 women in the DRC after their expulsions from Angola. Nicolai said MSF had presented the information to Angolan diplomats, but added that they had not taken action.

The allegations follow similar reports by other human rights groups.

No one from Angola’s Department of Foreign Affairs or Immigration Department would comment on the report.

Angola’s government, which typically does not respond to criticism from Western rights groups, has described illegal immigration as a major problem for the booming Southern African nation.

Diamonds helped to fuel the rebel Unita’s war against Angolan government forces during the country’s 27-year civil war. Since the conflict ended five years ago, migrants have flocked to the country to seek work in the mines. - Reuters

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