Impunity, insecurity and limited participation of women remain challenges in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Impunity, insecurity and limited participation of women remain challenges in the Democratic Republic of Congo

“ The continued presence of armed groups in eastern DRC and on-going conflict has had far reaching socio-economic repercussions and has led to continuous insecurity for women”said Elsie Effange-Mbella.

“The international community needs to support national cohesion. Fragility of the government’s authority has led to rampant impunity, circulation of arms and disregard for existing laws” emphasized Josephine Ngulula Kabeya.

Photo: Embassy of Finland.Photo: Embassy of Finland.

Josephine Ngulula Kabeya, the President of the Forum de la Femme Ménagère (FORFEM) and Elsie Effange-Mbella, the Senior Gender Adviser of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), spoke of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a meeting co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security in New York on 16th May 2012.

After the November 2011 elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recent discussions in New York regarding the DRC have focused on the deteriorating security situation in the East of the country and on security sector reform. The Security Council is about to start negotiations on the mandate of MONUSCO beyond 30 June 2012 and in this context it is important to give full consideration to women’s views in order to adopt the best possible strategies to address their specific protection concerns, and to promote their human rights and full participation.

The Democratic Republic of Congo faces many persisting challenges, including gender inequality. Both Ms. Ngulula and Ms. Effange-Mbella mentioned impunity for human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence, low representation of women in decision making and lack of capacity and resources for gender mainstreaming amongst the recurring challenges.  

Although the security situation is most alarming in the East of the country, Ms. Ngulula pointed to security concerns in the whole country and cited mass displacement from Katanga to Kasai due to increased insecurity as an example.  The weak authority of the government in the aftermath of the elections held in 2011 has led to defections from the security forces and to increased circulation of small arms and weapons, she said, and added that this leads to increased human rights violations. The international community needs to pressure the DRC government to have a dialogue with the opposition and support the civil society to grow stronger, Ms. Ngalula recommended.

Occurrence of sexual and gender based violence is highest in the East, but figures are also alarmingly high in other provinces. Due to lack of services and negative attitudes towards survivors of sexual violence the reported figures represent only a fraction of all cases of sexual and gender based violence. Both Ms. Ngulula and Ms. Effange-Mbella emphasized the importance of the fight against impunity. If well know perpetrators such as rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court, would be arrested, it would send a powerful deterring message to others, Ngulula believes. 

The representation of Congolese women is low both in the government and in the parliament despite existing constitutional guarantee of gender equality. Less than 10% of the members of the newly elected National Assembly are women and there are only five female ministers out of a cabinet of 35. Both Ms. Ngulula and Ms. Effange-Mbella urged Security Council members to consider how to make women’s voices heard. They hoped that the Security Council would include strategies for women’s engagement and help bring women to contribute to negotiating and building peace.

Ms. Effange-Mbella also noted a wide disparity in the representation of women and men within MONUSCO. Increased participation of women in MONUSCO, including in military peacekeeping and community liaison functions is crucial for the better protection of civilians.

Ensuring implementation of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Security Council’s country-specific work

At the tenth Anniversary of Resolution 1325 in October 2010 the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security compiled an analysis of how far we had come in its implementation. The analysis was clear: The Security Council has all the norms and tools at hand to make women’s rights and women’s participation in conflict and post-conflict situations a reality. Yet when it came to country-specific work of the Council, the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda was much more uneven.

The Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN has teamed up with the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security to try change that and help the Security Council ensure that women’s voices are genuinely heard when critical discussions take place and important decisions are made.

In partnership Finland and the NGO Working Group are going to arrange for advocates of women’s rights to come to UN Headquarters throughout 2012 to present women’s views and recommendations directly to the Security Council and other interested delegations and actors ahead of mandate renewals and most important country-specific discussions.

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security serves as a bridge between women’s human rights defenders in conflict-affected situations and policy-makers at UN Headquarters. The NGO Working Group composed of 18 international non-governmental organizations advocates for the full implementation of Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security and plays an important global role in monitoring policy and practice.