Recalling the UN Resolutions 1325 and 1820 adopted by the UN Security Council on Women, Peace and Security and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality, which have all be signed by the DR Congo. Congolese Women based in the UK and the D.R. Congo are united in their concern about the ongoing political crisis and the current situation of instability in the D.R. Congo, particularly the massacres and pauperization of civilians. These women are calling for effective security sector reforms, the strengthening of political institutions and the respect of the D.R. Congo constitution; hence the participation of women in the Governance of the D.R. Congo.
Many policy institutes and experts worldwide, including Global Witness in the UK, have called for a reform of the D.R. Congo’s Security Sector. Recent international reforms have aimed to stop Congo’s mineral wealth funding armed groups. Global Witness warns that the Congolese government needs to hold companies and government officials involved in such abuses to account in order for these reforms to work.
However, there cannot be any successful reform of the security sector without reform of the political sector and strengthening of state institutions in the D.R. Congo. It is therefore important to call for the support of reformation of Congo’s electoral commission and assure via aid coercive dialogue linked to aid conditionality that the constitution is fully respected so that the term of the Presidency is not extended, and there is no delay to the political alternative expected by grassroots population to the governance of the D.R. Congo.
The D.R. Congo was scheduled to hold a presidential election in November 2016 and incumbent president Joseph Kabila is bound by the constitution to step down as he has served two consecutive terms in power. The election could represent the first democratic transition of power after decades of civil war, political instability and deadly coups in D.R. Congo, often labelled as “the rape capital of the world” and “the worst place to be a woman”.
Anthony Gambino, the former mission director of USAID in the D.R. Congo, board member of the Panzi Foundation USA – which works to end violence against Congolese women – warned in January 2016 that Joseph Kabila’s attempt to cling on to power might result in further instability and human right violations, particularly abuses against women and girls. Gambino further stated that “Girls and women have suffered greatly in D.R. Congo” and he sees no chance of improvement, unless the D.R. Congo constitution is respected and there are new people in office in the DRC. Gambino further stated that if the current D.R. Congo president, (Mr Joseph Kabila) tries to stay, this will certainly worsen the situation of the country.
On March 30, 2016, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2277, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The resolution addressed a wide range of issues regarding the relationship between the UN and the Congolese government, particularly as it relates to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the D.R. Congo or MONUSCO. The resolution renewed the mandate of the UN peace keeping mission in the Congo. However, the political section of the resolution has taken centre stage in the increasing political and constitutional crisis unfolding in the D.R. Congo. Both the government and the opposition have hinged the vaunted dialogue on the political elements of the resolution. Both sides have latched on to elements of the resolution that serve them. Below are the articles of the resolution that addresses the political situation in the D.R. Congo.
The UK spends £1m ($1.4m) a day, or $500m (£348.6m) a year in the D.R. Congo, in order to support the development of the country, in order to support democracy and the rule of law, demonstrating the depth of the UK-DRC relationship. In January 2016, Danae Dholakia, the UK’s Special Envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes Region stated the following: “We judge at this point in time, that it’s still technically possible to have presidential elections in November 2016 if the political momentum is there, it’s still technically possible”. In June 2016, Danae Dholakia further stated that the UK was ready to spend £17m ($24.25m) to help fund free and fair elections in the D.R. Congo, but warned Kinshasa that it must first signal a desire to hold such a vote.
However the incumbent D.R. Congo Government and other political actors have demonstrated that they seek to prolong the rule of Joseph Kabila into a third term, which is barred under the D.R. Congo constitution. The D.R. Congo State’s institutions and State’s resources seems to have been taken hostage. With the recent launch of a political dialogue that started on the 1st September 2016, it is now clear that it will be impossible to hold presidential elections in November 2016.
For decades, the political, economical and social situation in eastern D.R. Congo has been, and remains, extremely worrying and cannot leave the conscience of Congolese women indifferent.
To mitigate their under-representation, marginalization and exclusion, it is important to highlight how women in the D.R. Congo have followed and often pushed, as well as gatecrashed various processes for peace building in the D.R. Congo. Furthermore, it is important to indicate that the involvement of Congolese women in the resolution of conflicts of recent years stem from a long painful process, because there have been many sacrifices, including intimidation, death threats, killings, torture, humiliation, extortion and exclusion on the way.
Although not being signatory to any of the peace agreements, Congolese women have been involved early in the multifaceted mobilization for a meaningful participation of women in the various peace processes in the D.R. Congo.
Despite the commitment of civil society and the willingness of Congolese women to wrest 30 percent of representation in the pre-dialogue, dialogue and other conferences on peace negotiations, as well as the responsibility of the Congolese State to implement the recommendations of the Platform for Action of Beijing 1995, and their ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and their adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, it is regrettable to note that the discrimination demonstrated toward Congolese women in the representation of women at the negotiating table or in State institutions continues to remain significant, and their presence is not a priority.
Thanks to the efforts undertaken, Congolese women have been and continue to be very active in the restoration of peace and stability in the D.R. Congo. They are continuing to demonstrate their courage and unity in working together in this adverse and tragic situation.
Therefore, these planned events will aim to raise the voices of Congolese women at the international level in the UK, according to UN SC RES 1325, on issues of security sector reforms, strengthening of the D.R. Congo institutions and respect of the Congolese institutions. These are imperative for peace, human rights, justice, security sector reform as well as human and socio-economic development.
References / Annexes
– The African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality (2004).
All United Nation Security Council Resolutions on Women Peace and Security http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/issues/women/wps.shtml
LES FEMMES DU CADRE PERMANENT DE CONCERTATION DE LA FEMME CONGOLAISE CHEZ VITAL KAMERHE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ4A6mbeL3I
Annie Matundu Mbambi (WILPF DRC) and Marie-Claire Faray Kele (UK WILPF), ‘GENDER INEQUALITY AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE D.R.CONGO,’ April-December 2010. http://www.peacewomen.org/assets/file/Resources/NGO/hrinst_genderinequalityinthedrc_wilpf_december2010english.pdf
Global Witness 2016 Report “River of Gold”
Margot Wallstrom. 2010. The first UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict stated after her return from the Democratic Republic of Congo is that it is “the rape capital of the world“, urged the Security Council to punish the perpetrators in DR Congo.
DRC: Violence against women and girls ‘likely to increase’ should President Kabila remain in power. By Ludovica Iaccino
UK ‘poised’ to spend £17m on DRC elections but warns Kinshasa must hold free and fair vote
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2277 (2016) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. http://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12307.doc.htm