These figures highlight the progress being made by organisations inside the DRC, including the office of the Personal Representative to the President on sexual violence and child recruitment, Ms Jeanine Mabunda.
However, the DRC is still dealing with outbreaks of unrest across the country, in particular in Kasai province. On International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Mabunda commented on the publication of the figures and on the scale of the challenge:
“Whilst the reduction in the reported cases of sexual violence in conflict situations is a milestone to be celebrated, we must not underestimate the long road ahead. Sexual violence continues to be a tool used by the most powerful in our society to terrorize the most vulnerable, as shown by recent reports of appalling sexual violence in the province of Kasai, which is experiencing heavy fighting of late.
“To mark the second International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we are revitalising our efforts, in collaboration with our domestic and international partners, to continue our work. On 27th June we will be opening Pavilion 8 of the General Referral Hospital of Kintambo, a centre dedicated to the gynaecological care of and support for victims of sexual violence. We are also raising awareness of our hotline service.
“We want to let victims know that there is support available, and that there is no shame in coming forward. We are working with political representatives across the country to push this to the top of the agenda. We appreciate that, unfortunately, sexual violence in conflict continues to be a significant problem in our country, however we are working hard to change that wherever possible. One of the most important but also largest challenges is to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice.”
The General Referral Hospital of Kintambo is the second most popular hospital in Kinshasa and Pavilion 8 is a collaboration between the Office of the Personal Representative and various private sector organisations, including the Japanese Embassy.
The following activities are also taking place over the next few weeks to mark International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict:
·On 24th June in Kasai and Kinshasa, there will be a ceremony held by the Office of the Personal Representative in partnership with the Wallonia Brussels Centre to announce the provincial edict on the prohibition of "retrograde and demeaning customs against women in the Central Kasai Province”. This initiative has been led by women from Kananga, who petitioned for a law protecting Kasai women. The edict is being hailed as a major step forward in the struggle for women’s rights, in Kasai in particular and for the DRC in general
·On 27th June, to coincide with the opening of Pavilion 8, the Office of the Personal Representative will be joined by the 24 Mayors of Kinshasa to raise awareness of the fight against sexual violence, in particular to promote the 122 hotline for victims
·Over the next few weeks, The Civic Education, Social Action Service, (SECAS) will host the workshops for the troops on sexual violence laws as well as training sessions for FARDC officers based in Kasai
On 3rd July Ms Mabunda will launch a military justice book including case studies of high-profile military members being held accountable for their crimes. Prosecuting perpetrators of all ranks is a critical step in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence in the DRC.