KINSHASA, Congo – Congo's army needs more international help to prevent brutal rebel attacks such as the recent mass gang-raping in eastern Congo, a government spokesman said Thursday.
Information Minister Lambert Mende also charged that the United Nations exaggerates the amount of rape in Congo and said its top official for sexual violence in conflict is wrong to call the country the "rape capital of the world."
Mende spoke at a news conference called to respond to criticisms that more should have been done to prevent the latest atrocity, where nearly 200 women and four baby boys were raped over four days within miles of a U.N. peacekeepers' base.
Lambert said Congo's army needs more on-the-ground support for its security forces from the international community.
But the U.N. peacekeeping and stabilization mission in Congo already has faced a barrage of criticism for its support of offensives against rebels which have seen more than 60,000 soldiers — more than one-third of Congo's army — spread across eastern Congo and often preying on the population.
Civil society leaders recently have been calling for the demilitarization of some zones, saying the soldiers, often unpaid, are as much a danger to the population as rebels.