The son of Congo’s former dictator vowed to use military force to crack down on Congolese soldiers and rebels who have kept up a years-long campaign of rape against civilians in the Central African nation, saying he will hold the guilty accountable if he is elected president.
In a wide-ranging interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Thursday, Nzanga Mobutu blamed his country’s ills on weak governance in the current administration, promised constitutional reforms to curb corruption and declared himself independent of his father’s checkered legacy.
The eldest son of the late Mobutu Sese Seko, who was ousted in 1997 after nearly 32 years of authoritarian rule, Nzanga Mobutu is one of 11 candidates seeking the presidency in Congo’s Nov. 28 election.
Human rights groups have documented hundreds of rapes and killings in the country, particularly in the eastern North and South Kivu provinces. For many years, the atrocities have been committed by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, Rwandan Hutu rebels, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and Congolese soldiers, they say.
In August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited rape victims in Goma and described the rampant sexual violence as “horrific.” She presented the government with the names of Congolese army officers suspected of having a role in the attacks and asked for action against the men, Mr. Mobutu said.
“In reality, there is a lack of political will,” Mr. Mobutu said.
Mr. Mobutu, who was part of Mr. Kabila's Cabinet until March, said some of his former government colleagues would make excuses for the soldiers accused of rape. “It is a problem of culture. When some young men are not taught that rape is improper behavior there is no way these young men can behave correctly in life,” he said.
If elected, he said he will hold officers accountable if they are accused of rape and even use military force against those who disobey his command.
But, he added, “at some point you’re going to have to use incentives. If you don’t do a thing, they will keep on raping, destroying lives and burning houses.”
Violence in the Kivu and Equateur provinces has eroded support for Mr. Kabila among residents who had hoped the government would bring peace. Mr. Mobutu, who placed fourth in a 2006 presidential bid, aims to pick up crucial support in those areas.View Entire Story
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Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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