Ottawa, Canada – October 15, 2012
As the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie wrapped their 14th summit in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict urges member states that gathered and spotlighted the troubled human rights record of the country – particularly widespread rape and gender violence – not to leave with empty promises for hope and change.
Held every two years, this year’s summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo allowed leaders from the French-speaking world to publicly highlight the grave human rights abuses perpetrated by the Congolese government and by its neighbours against Congolese civilians, especially women and girls.
On the eve of the summit, the United Nations Group of Experts – tasked by the Security Council to provide information on the ongoing conflict in Eastern Congo delivered its final report. The group found that fellow Francophonie member state Rwanda has been supporting, training, and arming a mutiny from the Congolese army – the M23 rebellion.
The recent M23 rebellion has resulted in a significant increase in violence in the eastern provinces of Congo, and rape and gender violence has skyrocketed in the area. Part of the M23 is rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, who continues to remain free in the region despite an International Criminal Court warrant issued for his arrest. The actions of the Congolese government in defying the warrant has encouraged impunity for rape and allowed violence to continue in the country.
“This year I am once again operating on women whose genitals were destroyed by rape and other atrocities. There are many women who are barely getting by, and rape is continuing. The rainy season is coming soon in North Kivu and the vulnerability of women is increasing,” said Panzi Hospital’s Dr. Denis Mukwege.
At the summit, international leaders such French President Francois Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper underlined the ongoing gender violence in the country, as well as the Congolese government’s weak involvement in stopping rape.
We welcome the $18.5 million CAD announced by Canada on the heels of the summit in support of Congolese survivors of rape, and encourage all Francophonie member states to take action to ensure stopping rape and gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains a priority once leaders return to their home country, including seeking accountability for Rwanda’s role in the ongoing violence.
From Eastern Congo’s South Kivu province, Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights and Advisory Committee member of the Campaign said, “The General Hospital in Bukavu and other key locations have no rape kits despite dedicated medical staff wanting to improve their care for survivors of sexual violence. Medical staff and those involved in assuring justice for victims are operating in an atmosphere of insecurity and often, intimidation. Yet, more and more survivors are seeking justice and pursuing cases in local courts. Obstacles are overwhelming but the young energy we have experienced here during the past week is inspiring and offers hope.”
We urge Francophonie member states to work with courageous women and men at the grassroots level who risk their lives to support survivors of rape, and who every day demand justice and to stop the cycle of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
For more information on rape and gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, please see the Campaign website: http://www.stoprapeinconflict.org/dr_congo.
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The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict
613-569-8400 ext. 116
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is led by the Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and an Advisory Committee comprised of 25 organizations working at the international, regional and community levels to stop rape.
Since its launch in May 2012, more than 600 organizations from around the world have joined. The Campaign demands urgent and bold political leadership to prevent rape in conflict, to protect civilians and rape survivors, and calls for justice for all—including effective prosecution of those responsible.