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Civilians risk being targets of sexual violence in recent fighting in DR Congo

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Margot Wallstrom, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual, Violence in Conflict. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Civilians are in great danger of being targeted with acts of sexual violence in the new wave of fighting taking place in the province of North Kivu, in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, says UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström. She is supported by the UN Security Council who has urged all armed groups to ”immediately cease all forms of violence…lay down their arms and demobilize”.

The fighting in North Kivu resumed a couple of weeks ago, when fractions from the former armed group CNDP, who was integrated with the Congolese government forces as part of the peace treaty in 2009, broke out of the army to again form its own militia. The increased violence has forced thousands of civilians to flee from their homes. Goma – the main city in North Kivu – has up to date recieved over 15 000 IDP:s (Internally Displaced Persons).

The Congolese women- and peace organisation CAFED -  Collectif des Associations des Femmes pour le Développement – who has visited refugee camps outside of Goma, reports that the refugees haven’t recieved any help, not even food or basic hygiene products. Several women among the refugees where survivors of sexual violence and many hade seen their husbands getting killed.

Same perpetrators

- Once again, a new wave of violence is being perpetrated by actors such as the Mai Mai leader Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi and General Bosco Ntaganda, both of whom have been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council for various violations including sexual violence crimes, said Margot Wallström.

Bosco Ntaganda, who became a leader within the government forces after the peace treaty, was the former leader of CNDP and has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

Some of the now targeted villages, in the Walikali territory, were as late as in July and August 2010 the scenes of horrendous crimes, when more than 380 women, men and children were subjected to sexual violence by the Mai Mai Sheka group. And the whole history of conflict in DR Congo is filled with acts of rape and sexual violence. More than 400,000 women ages 15 to 49 experienced rape between 2006 and 2007. That is equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day, 48 women raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes. (If Numbers Could Scream: Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence in the Republic of the Congo, American Public Health Association, 2011)

International campaign against rape

Because of this, DR Congo is also one of four focus countries in a new international campaign initiatied by the Nobel Women’s Peace Initiative: Stop rape and gender violence in conflict.

The campaign calls for:

  • Powerful and urgent leadership on the local, national, regional, and international levels to prevent and stop rape and gender violence and conflict situations;
  • A dramatic increase in resources for prevention and protection and for psychosocial and physical healing for survivors, their families, and communities, including concerted efforts to end stigma of survivors;
  • Justice for victims, including prosecution of perpetrators at national, regional, and international levels, and comprehensive reparation for survivors.

You can join in with your own pledge here.

DR Congo: UN envoy concerned about possible sexual violence amid latest fighting (statement by UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence)

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