Over four horrific days at the end of July, at least 200 women were gang-raped in the Congolese village of Luvungi—just down the road from UN peacekeepers. The incident is shining a spotlight on the UN's abject failure to protect civilians there, despite spending more than 10 years and billions of dollars in the country. UN officials admit that the blue-helmeted peacekeepers, some of the 18,000 stationed in the country, didn't respond quickly enough in Luvungi, but contend that the Congolese Army holds the primary responsibility to do so. But the army—itself a mess—hasn't been in the Luvungi area since mid-July.
With no cellphone service or electricity, the UN maintains it can be difficult to know when there is an attack occurring—and peacekeepers say they are often tricked into being told an area is under siege by truck drivers, who are seeking escorts to protect their minerals. The New York Times reports that on Aug. 2, peacekeepers finally agreed to escort drivers through Luvungi, where they spotted ripped up mattresses and scattered clothing, which they considered to be evidence of looting. They say villagers said nothing of the rapes.