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Congo: UN scrambles to better protect civilians in wake of mass rape

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On a warm and humid Tuesday in October, Singh and 15 troops patrolled the lush farmed hills above Rugari.

"Jambo! Habari?" (Hello! How are you?), asked Singh in Kiswahili, the area's lingua franca. With an interpreter at his side, he stopped to talk to a few people, asking about activity like looting by armed groups or police, or Army harassment.

While planting climbing beans, Françoise Nyiramakuta said she still worries about coming to her fields alone, but that she now has faith that the peacekeepers' frequent patrols will protect her. "I do come [to the farm] because I know when there is a problem, they come [right away]," she says.

The peacekeeping mission here is among the most difficult in the world, according to experts. The terrain is a morass of thick forests, mountains, and valleys. There are few roads and most are unpaved, potholed – obstacle courses only passable with four-wheel-drive vehicles. Many areas lack strong state authority and basic services. Some are hours or days away from the nearest UN base.

Some say the peacekeepers' job is nearly impossible because there are simply not enough troops. Congo is roughly the size of Western Europe. And, although MONUSCO has more than 18,000 soldiers, there are about 10 million Congolese living in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu alone.

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