Democratic Republic of the Congo

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2018/250) issued on 16 April 2018.

The progress achieved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in addressing the decades of widespread sexual violence used as a tactic of war has been jeopardized in recent months by an unstable political environment, unprecedented levels of displacement, continued armed clashes and weak State structures. Alarming patterns of ethnically-motivated sexual violence emerged in Tanganyika province, arising from the perceived marginalization of the Twa ethnic group, which has set in mo tion cycles of violence and revenge between Twa and Luba militias. In 2017, Twa militia in Tanganyika were responsible for the highest number of documented cases of sexual violence perpetrated by a non-State armed group. Conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated with extreme brutality has also spread to the three Kasai provinces. In that context, anti-Government Kamuina Nsapu militia and pro-Government Bana Mura militia have both targeted civilians believed to support their adversaries. Deliberate attacks against communities along ethnic fault lines have included the use of taboo practices, such as victims being raped in front of relatives, a pregnant woman having her fetus ripped out and at least one victim being forced to perform sex acts on a family member before being executed. In April, Bana Mura militants raped 41 women and two girls in a series of attacks on Lulua and Luba villages.

During the period under review, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) verified 804 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 507 women, 265 girls, 30 men and 2 boys, representing an increase from the previous reporting period. During the same period, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported 5,783 cases of sexual violence in conflict-affected provinces, more than twice as many as in 2016. Approximately 72 per cent of cases were attributed to non-State armed groups, notably Twa militia in Tanganyika and the Force de résistance patriotique de l’Ituri (FRPI) operating in Irumu territory in Ituri. More than half of the sexual assaults by FRPI involved multiple attackers, and 40 per cent of incidents were perpetrated in conjunction with looting, pillage and theft.

There was an increase in the number of incidents attributed to both FARDC (28 per cent) and the Congolese National Police (109 per cent) in 2017. Over one third of those sexually assaulted by members of the national police were being detained in police custody at the time. A significant proportion of the victims were children, in 41 per cent of offences perpetrated by members of FARDC and in 42 per cent of those perpetrated by national police officers. Despite recent developments of concern, the overall number of incidents of conflict-related sexual violence by elements of the State security apparatus has declined since 2013, following concerted efforts by the authorities. The FARDC hierarchy has continued to implement its action plan, resulting in undertakings being signed by 57 commanders and 370 officers being trained, although disciplinary action against high-ranking offenders is uneven. Implementation of the national police action plan is also advancing slowly.

The military authorities in South Kivu successfully prosecuted three emblematic cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017, which included the conviction of a FARDC colonel in the Becker case for command responsibility for rape as a war crime in Musenyi, a commander in the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda for sexual violence as a war crime in the Nzovu case and a member of Parliament in South Kivu and his militia of a crime against humanity for the abduction and rape of 39 children in the Kavumu case. In addition, commander Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka surrendered to the authorities in July and is expected to stand trial for his role in the 2010 mass rape of 387 civilians in Walikale, North Kivu. Overall, 42 members of FARDC and 17 members of the national police were convicted by military tribunals of rape, although bureaucratic hurdles preclude victims from obtaining reparations.

Medical assistance was provided to over 5,200 survivors of sexual violence by United Nations agencies in 2017, with a further 2,243 civilians receiving counselling and referrals in legal clinics supported by MONUSCO. The Government made significant progress in its advocacy and outreach to raise awareness of sexual violence, through radio and television programmes, and by oper ating a nationwide helpline for victims. In July 2017, the Deputy Secretary-General, the UnderSecretary-General/Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, my Special Representative and the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Women, Peace and Security jointly visited Goma to highlight the importance of the participation of women in peace, security and development processes and the necessity of safe and dignified return for displaced women under conditions that guarantee their economic and physical security.

Recommendation

I urge the Government to reinforce its efforts to combat sexual violence and to scale up services, including socioeconomic reintegration support for displaced and returnee women. I call for the armed and security forces to be adequately vetted and trained, to uphold a policy of zero tolerance of such violence by bringing offenders to justice, irrespective of rank, and to ensure that victims and witnesses are protected and that adequate reparations are made to victims.