ArmyThe Congolese military has promised to penalize any soldiers found guilty of rights abuses, after activists claimed troops were carrying out mass rape.

Military spokesman Colonel Leon Richard Kasonga said commanders must ensure the safety of civilians.

Last week US-based group Human Rights Watch said the army was responsible for most of the rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war-torn east.

The Red Cross says 400,000 people have fled the conflict since March.

Both government troops and the rebels who they are battling are often accused of attacking civilians.

But a statement from army headquarters signed by Col Kasonga said: “From this day, any serviceman guilty of reprehensible acts will feel the full force of the law.”

The statement listed acts including “rapes, forcing civilians to carry out forced labour, theft, extortion, torture, looting, malicious destruction of fields or livestock murders”.

The government, backed by the UN, launched an offensive last December to try to flush out rebels in the east of the country


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