Most women arriving in parts of the province of Kasai Occidental in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) among a new wave of some 27,000 deportees from Angola, have been sexually abused, a local health official said. “There are many injured people and 80 percent of the women [who arrived] had been raped,” Pierre Didi Mpata, a doctor and director of an NGO running a local health centre in Kamako village. The village is located along the Congolese border with Angola.

According to Kemal Saiki, the spokesman for the UN mission in DRC, MONUC, some 22,230 DRC citizens sent back from Angola between the end of May and 9 June were now between Kahungua and Tembo, some 95 kilometres from the Angolan border. “The numbers keep growing,” he said, adding that those expelled lacked adequate food and blankets. “They have nothing and are exhausted after their long walk.”

An additional 5,000 are now located in Kamako, also in Kasai Occidental province, he said. Among the people who had been sexually abused was Caroline Lomelo (name changed), a mother of two. Lomelo spoke with difficulty as she was attended to at the health centre.

“I was badly beaten up and raped by five Angolan police officers when they forcefully expelled us,” she said. Lomelo returned to the DRC five days ago from Angola. According to Mpata, Lomelo can barely stand because she has a sexually transmitted infection. She is also six months pregnant.

“She is in danger of having an abortion because of the [gonorrhoea] infection she contracted,” Mpata said.

Lomelo, who was training to be a nurse, said she had gone to Angola from her home town of Lodja, in the central province of Kasai Oriental, to look for her brother. There are other patients who are waiting to be operated on at the health centre after they suffered internal injuries due to the sexual violence, according to Mpata. “It’s a miracle they survived,” he said. Those who had returned were living in churches and schools where supplies of basic items were inadequate, Mpata said. They had arrived in the DRC after walking for at least 100 km. On 5 December 2007, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounced what it described as “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”. Previous mass expulsions in the area had been halted by an agreement between the two countries. The Angolan authorities began to expel illegal immigrants from the country in December 2003, targeting illegal workers in its diamond mines near the border with the DRC.