The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2020/487) issued on 03 June 2020.

Instability increased in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as from 30 December 2018, during the post-electoral period, with North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema and Ituri Provinces particularly affected. In 2019, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) documented 1,409 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, which represents an increase of 34 per cent since 2018. Of those cases, 955 are attributed to non-State armed groups. In terms of State actors, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were implicated in 383 of these incidents, which represents a 76 per cent increase from the previous year. The Congolese National Police bore responsibility for 62 cases, and nine incidents were attributed to other State actors. The increase in reports of sexual violence coincided with a rise in the number of military operations. The rotation of troops of the armed forces had a negative impact on discipline and accountability, linked with a lack of supervision and oversight of soldiers. Ethnically motivated violence spiked in 2019, particularly in South Kivu and Ituri Provinces. In Ituri, Lendu militia targeted Hema women and girls during attacks on villages. Members of the armed forces, deployed to Ituri to defend the local population, were also implicated in sexual violence, particularly against women and girls attempting to flee their villages. Nduma défense du Congo-Renové led by Guidon Shimirayi Mwissa and the Nyatura reportedly used rape as a form of intimidation and punishment against women and girls perceived as supporting an opposing armed group.

The illicit exploitation of natural resources continues to be a root cause and driver of conflict in the east of the country. In Tanganyika, South Kivu and Maniema, Twa militia targeted villages in mineral-rich locations, using sexual violence as a form of retaliation against rival ethnic groups. In Nyiragongo, North Kivu, in areas known for the lucrative charcoal trade, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda attacked women who came into the Virunga National Park to purchase fuel. Inadequate material resources for, and inconsistent remuneration of, military personnel, and the deployment of battalions in close proximity to residential areas have led to patterns of predatory behaviour by members of the security forces against the civilian population, including looting, pillage and rape. This dynamic was documented in Beni in late 2019, in the context of operations against the Allied Democratic Forces. Despite a spike in voluntary surrenders by members of armed groups, in the absence of a functioning national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, many combatants returned to the bush and resumed hostilities. Other former combatants were integrated into the national military, without proper training on prevention of and response to sexual violence.

Emblematic cases, such as the trial of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka and Serafin Lionso for mass rape, are ongoing. Lieutenant Colonel Mabiala Ngoma Alma of the armed forces remains at large, despite having received a sentence of life imprisonment, in November 2018, for crimes against humanity, including rape. The Government and the United Nations worked closely to engage the Force de résistance patriotique de l’Ituri in peace negotiations, which decreased the levels of reported sexual violence perpetrated by this group. In March, MONUSCO launched the Shabunda action plan, designed to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by Mai Mai Raia Mutomboki factions, which had been responsible for the highest number of recorded incidents in 2018. This plan led to an almost 72 per cent decrease in the number of reported incidents of conflict-related sexual violence in the region, and to the trial of Mai-Mai Raia Mutomboki faction leader, “Kokodikoko”, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery. Despite this encouraging trend, other Mai-Mai Raia Mutomboki factions continued to commit sexual violence against local populations in gold-rich areas of South Kivu. The trial against Justin Matata Banaloki, alias “Cobra Matata”, who is accused of crimes against humanity, including rape, commenced in 2019, and in July 2019, the International Criminal Court convicted Bosco Ntaganda of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery. The procedure for claiming reparations is arduous, and legal clinics lack funding to assist survivors after judgments are delivered. During her visit in December 2019, my Special Representative participated in the launch of the Congolese National Police action plan on the fight against sexual violence, and signed an addendum to the joint communiqué of 2013 with the Prime Minister.

Recommendation

I welcome the signing of an addendum to the joint communiqué between the Government and the United Nations and encourage its effective implementation. I urge the National Assembly to ensure the adoption of pending legislation on the protection of victims and witnesses, the provision of legal aid and the establishment of a national reparations fund. I urge the Government to ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence are not integrated into national institutions.

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