December 05, 2007

Johannesburg/Brussels/Kinshasa, December 5th, 2007 – The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounces the pervasive and systematic use of rape and violence perpetrated by the Angolan army during the expulsions of Congolese migrants working in diamond mines in the Angolan province of Lunda Norte.

MSF teams arrived in Western Kasaï—a Congolese province bordering Angola—in October and are providing care to victims of sexual violence. They have also collected 100 testimonies exposing collective rape and physical abuse widely perpetrated by the Angolan military.

"At night, neighborhoods are surrounded by soldiers," says Meinie Nicolai, Director of Operations at MSF. "The men who are able to, run away, while those who cannot are locked up in a filthy makeshift prison with the women and children. Women are systematically raped by several soldiers, some of them in front of their children. This abhorrent practice is repeated over several days as they are transported to the border."

People who have been expelled from Angola say that they have received neither water nor food during their detention and their deportation to the Congolese border. The majority also report anal and vaginal searches, with their excrement scrutinized to find any hidden diamonds.

Several testimonies report deaths due to exhaustion or mistreatment. Men have been beaten, forced to work or to join the army, or even arbitrarily executed.

According to the United Nations, 44,000 people have already been expelled from this diamond-rich area of Angola to the Congolese border since January 2007. It is estimated that 400,000 Congolese live in northern Angola.

"It is difficult to know how many people cross the border everyday," explains Nicolai. "The border between Angola and DRC is more than 2000 km long, and there are countless crossing points."

"In the name of these women, MSF has the duty to denounce these grave abuses," declares Nicolai. "In 2004, MSF had already spoken out about similar abuses perpetrated against Congolese migrants. Today, it is sadly clear that nothing has changed."