DR Congo women march against sexual violence

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A Congolese woman blows a whistle during the "World March of Women" in Bukavu (17 October 2010)
Image caption,
Many women carried banners with slogans such as "No to sexual terrorism"

The Democratic Republic of Congo's first lady has led thousands of women on a march against sexual violence.

Olive Lembe Kabila headed the rally in the town of Bukavu in the east of the country, where Congolese and foreign armed groups have operated for years.

Last week, the UN said government troops were raping and killing women in the same villages where hundreds were raped by rebels in July and August.

The country's defence minister has denied any soldiers were involved.

On Friday, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo, Monusco, said an estimated 15,000 people had been raped there last year.

'Regaining dignity'

The demonstration led by Mrs Lembe Kabila saw thousands of women walk through the streets of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province.

Many of them carried banners with slogans such as "No to sexual terrorism", according to the AFP news agency.

"Coming here is important because violence towards women is used systematically as a weapon of war," said Miriam Nobre of World March of Women, which organised the march.

Nene Rukunghu, a doctor at a hospital in Bukavu, said the international community finally seemed interested in DR Congo's problems.

"We must fight against impunity, so that the perpetrators of violence are punished, to allow women to regain their dignity. Despite what they endure, Congolese women are strong and able to stand up again."

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