• Democratic Republic of Congo: the context

    Engendering Peacekeeping.

    The case of Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Mandate, History and Resolutions

    During its turbulent history as an independent State, the Democratic Republic of Congo always maintained a relation with the United Nations. In 1960, the independence granted to the Congo was immediately challenged by internal tensions regarding the country’s unity, leading to the deployment of the first UN mission in the country: ONUC (1960-1964), with, among others, troops from Argentina and Brazil. Congo went through an eventful period during this mandate: the assassination of the Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and the tragic death of UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in an accident as he was flying to the province of Katanga to take part in peace negotiations.


    The Mobutu’s dictatorship that was then imposed for the next thirty years (1965-1997) did not let any space for UN presence, until the rebellion of 1996, lead by Laurent Désiré Kabila against the army of President Mobutu Sese Seko. Kabila’s forces took the capital city of Kinshasa in 1997, aided by Uganda and Rwanda, this latter in the aftermaths of the 1994 genocide, where some 1.2 million Rwandese Hutus — including elements who had taken part in the genocide — had fled to the neighbouring Kivu regions of eastern DRC. In these same Kivu regions, in 1998 a rebellion against the Kabila government started. Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe promised President Kabila military support, but the rebels maintained their grip on the eastern regions, also supported by Rwanda and Uganda. The UN returned on the scene, calling for a ceasefire through the Lusaka Peace Agreements in 1999 and establishing, firstly in July with a small deployment of 90 military and civilian personnel, and then definitively on the 30 November of the same year, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) with the Security Council resolution 1279.


    Initially, MONUC was tasked to observe the ceasefire and the disengagement of forces. But later, in June 2000, due to the continuation of hostilities, the Security Council initiated a series of resolutions which expanded the mandate of MONUC to the supervision of the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement and assigned multiple related additional tasks, such as reinforcing the contribution of military personnel, establishing a police component and developing civilian departments. Operating throughout the whole country, MONUC faced major challenges in the years following its establishment: collaboration to sustain and further develop the transition towards an electoral process; the security sector reform; the persistence of armed groups; and virtually destroyed infrastructures and institutional system. Armed groups had tens of thousands of adherents; their dispersion and multiplication had to be addressed both politically and militarily, with further serious complications as many of those groups operated from foreign bases, with a size estimated in 17,500 combatants in 2002. Meanwhile, national groups responded to various sectors and ideas, often following local motivations and the objective of mere survival.


    The country’s first free and fair elections in 46 years were held on 30 July 2006. President Joseph Kabila (son of late Laurent Désiré Kabila assassinated in 2001) was declared the winner. The entire electoral process represented one of the most complex votes the United Nations had ever helped organize. Although the method of resolving political issues through armed conflict decreased in intensity, it did not end, and neither did the involvement of neighbouring countries in the complex regional security situation.


    Following the elections, MONUC remained on the ground: the combination of armed conflict and poorly formed national armed forces meant that UN forces were essential to the provision of security in the country, and they trying to resolve ongoing conflicts in a number of the DRC provinces, while continuing to implement multiple political, rule of law and capacity-building tasks as mandated by the Security Council resolutions.


    In the following years, the progress made in demobilization and semi-stabilization of the Country led the UN to program a transition phase into the work of peacekeeping mission: on 1 July 2010, the Security Council, by its resolution 1925  , renamed MONUC the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), reflecting the new phase reached in the country. In reality, the decision to focus on stabilization responded also to the wishes of the Congolese government which, for domestic reasons, desired a smaller international presence in the country.


    The transition from MONUC to MONUSCO consisted also in authorizing the new mission to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate related, among other things, to the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts. The Council decided that MONUSCO would comprise, in addition to the appropriate civilian, judiciary and correction components, a maximum of 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 members of formed police units. The mandate of MONUSCO was further detailed in resolution 2053  adopted by the Security Council on 27 June 2012.


    Although the situation in many regions of the country had generally stabilized, the eastern part of DRC continued to be plagued by recurrent waves of conflict, chronic humanitarian crises and serious human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence. Continued presence of Congolese and foreign armed groups taking advantage of power and security vacuums in the eastern part of the country; lack of state authority; illegal exploitation of resources and interference by neighbouring countries; pervasive impunity; lands conflicts; and weak capacity of the national army and police to effectively protect civilians and the national territory and ensure law and order, when not committing themselves human rights violations against its own civilian population. All these elements contributed to the recurrence of cycles of violence, which become particularly serious in 2012. In order to address the underlying causes of conflict and ensure that sustainable peace takes hold in the country and the wider region, the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region was signed by representatives of 11 countries in the region, the Chairs of the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the Southern African Development Community and the United Nations Secretary-General on 24 February 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Acting in support of this Framework agreement, on 28 March 2013 the Security Council unanimously decided, by its resolution 2098, to create a specialized “intervention brigade” for an initial period of one year and within the authorized MONUSCO troop ceiling of 19,815. It would consist of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special force and reconnaissance company and operate under direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander, with the responsibility of neutralizing armed groups and the objective of contributing to reducing the threat posed by armed groups to state authority and civilian security in eastern DRC and to make space for stabilization activities. The Council also decided that MONUSCO shall strengthen the presence of its military, police and civilian components in eastern DRC and reduce, to the fullest extent possible for the implementation of its mandate, its presence in areas not affected by conflict in particular Kinshasa and in western DRC.


    On 28 March 2014, the Security Council, by its resolution 2147, extended the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2015 and decided that the renewed mandate would also include MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade — “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice” — within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel and 1,050 formed police units.



  • Mission's structure

    An introduction to MONUSCO’s structure


    The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo – MONUSCO – is one of the biggest ongoing peacekeeping operations, both in terms of number of personnel and dimension of area of responsibility. Military, police and civilian components belong to the mission, where national and international staffs cover a number of different roles, from the substantive to the administrative and logistic ones. The current strength in terms of personnel in 2014 is about 21,176 total uniformed personnel (of which 19,523 military personnel, 501 military observers and 1,152 police) and 4467 civilian personnel (included 970 international civilian personnel,  2,967 local civilian staff, and 530 United Nations Volunteers). The total approved budget to allow for this massive machine to operate is, from July 2013 to June 2014, $1,456,378,300. These may come across as colossal figures, especially if compared to figures of other current peacekeeping missions (for instance, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti – MINUSTAH –operates with about a third of the military and civilian personnel than MONUSCO, and a third of the budget). However, in order to better understand the value of such figures, it is necessary to bring closer attention to the specific context of the mission. MONUSCO operates in an incredibly vast country, covering an area of responsibility of at least 1 million square kilometres (with a special focus on the Eastern part of the country). Transportation infrastructures are almost inexistent, with no direct ways of transport from the Eastern regions to the capital, located in the Western part. Distances among cities and villages are hampered almost everywhere by lack of roads, insecurity and geographical inaccessibility, making often the air ways the only available ways of transportation using planes or helicopters. The conditions of the few roads, when attainable, require using 4X4 vehicles and only allow for a very slow travelling time. This means that each operation to reach the capital city or villages for assessment, investigation or protection missions, implies the involvement of important logistical, financial, staff and timing resources. Moreover, the inefficiency of the local electric and water system is temporarily solved by using big amounts of fuel, generators and systems to transport and store water, especially to ensure the regular provision of the military bases, both permanent and mobile. Thus, the vastness of the territory, collapsed infrastructures, and spread of violations occurring throughout the country, determine the important expenses and resources for logistical purposes, however indispensable to allow MONUSCO’s work in terms of peacekeeping, protection of civilians, promotion and protection of human rights, and stabilisation.


    An important amount of civilian, police and military sections jointly participate to MONUSCO’s functions. In total, MONUSCO presents about 15 different civilian sections, one military component structured in four brigades (with the participation of contingents coming from about 16 different countries), Military Observers, and the police component called the UN Police (UNPOL). Civilian, military and police components are represented both at National level, based in the capital, Kinshasa, and at Provincial levels (seeing as the administrative system of DRC divides the country into Provinces, and, for the biggest Provinces, in Districts). Although it is worth noting the major presence in the Eastern part of the country, still affected by conflicts.

    Each section and component focuses on specific tasks and mandates. However, seeing as the protection of civilians, defence of human rights, and restoration of state authority – the main objectives of MONUSCO – result from interdependent actions, all the components need to work together to obtain the desired results. Information sharing, joint analysis and coordination of actions are thus indispensable to obtain positive impacts. Yet it is often difficult to put in practice due to: communication problems caused by distance, issues related with different hierarchies (among civilian and military staff, for instance), different backgrounds and trainings (for example cultural backgrounds), different logistical means, and diverse conceptions of impacts (short/immediate term or long term). To solve these issues a vast coordination mechanism among the three MONUSCO components is established, in addition to the daily coordination meetings for each component’s section. Moreover, MONUSCO is at the core of several innovative initiatives created to promote coordination and joint actions of military, civilian and police components to obtain more effective impacts on the field, such as the Joint Protection Teams. These are joint missions conducted in field areas, often remote ones, with the equal participation of military, police and civilian units, in order to assess protection and human rights situations in a certain area, and to create and maintain regular contacts with local population. That is how it becomes possible to establish, with the local population itself, the best measures to prevent, protect and stabilise a specific area.


    The interactive maps below show the basic tasks of each MONUSCO’s section, its location and the main methods of interaction with other military, civilian and police components.


    Click on each section in order to discover its functions and mechanism of coordination.


    MONUSCO Organization Chart


    Regional Distribution of the MONUSCO’s civilian and police offices






    Distribution of MONUSCO Forces

    Organisation of DRC Government


    As MONUSCO is hosted in the territory of DRC, the DRC Government represents the first partner of the peacekeeping mission. Not only MONUSCO cannot be present in DRC without the authorisation of the DRC Government, but it is also primarily tasked to support, stimulate and cooperate in the development of the Congolese Government’s capacities of being the first responsible for the protection of civilians and maintenance of peace in its own territory.


    For this reason, understanding the organisation of DRC Government is vital for MONUSCO’s functionality. From the sector of Justice to Defence, passing through Gender, Health, Transports, Interior, among others, Congolese ministries usually represent the regular counterparts of MONUSCO’s work.


    Knowing the organisation of the Congolese Government implies taking into account the dimension of DRC, and the difficult connections between the capital and the rest of the country, both in terms of transport and in terms of phone coverage, which is often absent or irregular throughout the whole State. Partly to respond to these challenges, the government of DRC started a process of decentralisation: from Kinshasa, the capital, the national ministers exercise their functions over the whole Country, yet they are also represented by Provincial ministers that act in each Province of DRC.


    Indeed, the whole DRC is currently subdivided in 11 Provinces, included the city-province of Kinshasa. From the West to the East, the Provinces are: Bas-Congo, Kinshasa, Bandundu, Equateur, Kasai Oriental, Kasai Occidental, Maniema, Oriental Province, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Katanga. Due to the vast dimension of some of the Provinces, some of them are further subdivided in Districts, as it is the case, for instance, with the Oriental Province and Katanga Province. All Provinces then contain Territories, which are further split in smaller administrative divisions.


    Kinshasa hosts all Governmental National representatives: the President of the Republic in primis, supported by several National Ministries. Each Province presents a similar organisation: the Governor of each Province, elected by the local population, is supported in its functions by Provincial Ministers, one for each National Ministry acting at National level. So, for instance, the Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs and Children acts at National level through its National Minister; at the same time, it is also decentralised at Provincial level, with Provincial Ministers of Gender and Family Affairs. Furthermore, at Provincial level the Provincial ministerial Divisions act as technical structures in support of each Provincial ministry.


    However, it is important to note that not all ministries are decentralised: the Ministry of Defence acts in a centralised manner, and it does not have ministerial representatives at Provincial levels.


    The decentralisation of ministries has a direct impact on MONUSCO’s work. While the high-levels hierarchies of MONUSCO always act with the DRC Ministerial counterparts at National level, the field offices in the Provinces interact with the Provincial governmental representatives. This is particularly evident for MONUSCO’s sections tasked to lead strategies and programs together with DRC Government, as in the case of the Comprehensive/National Strategy combating Sexual Violence in DRC, where the Sexual Violence Unit MONUSCO acts at National level directly with the National Minister of Gender, and at Provincial levels interacts with the Provincial Ministers of Gender of South Kivu, North Kivu, and Oriental Province, or the Governmental Gender Office in Ituri District.


    Humanitarian actors in DRC


    Together with the DRC Government, humanitarian actors are among the main partners of MONUSCO, tasked to prevent humanitarian crisis and facilitate response when such crises occur.


    Conflict, and consequent movements of population, poor health and education services, poverty, natural disasters, and inadequate housing conditions, are among the factors that require humanitarian assistance in the whole DRC, and especially in the Eastern part of the country. The complexity of the situation calls for the presence of a vast number of specialised actors, from United Nations Agencies to International and National Non Governmental Organisations. Their domains of intervention go from children and refugees’ protection, to land conflicts’ mediation, provision of adequate housing, health services, and distribution of food or necessary items.


    The UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - is the body in charge of coordinating all the interventions of humanitarian actors in DRC. However, UNOCHA is not the only interface of MONUSCO with humanitarian colleagues. Indeed, each MONUSCO section, according to its domain of intervention, regularly works in direct cooperation with specialised humanitarian actors, such as UN Agencies and non-governmental organisations.


    For instance, regarding gender promotion and the fight against sexual violence in DRC, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund –, UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees -, and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund - are among the UN Agencies that most directly collaborate with MONUSCO (particularly Gender Offices and Sexual Violence Unit). Each agency respectively works on providing victims of sexual violence with adequate medical and psycho-social assistance, promoting initiatives and strategies of protection and prevention from sexual and gender-based violence, and collecting data on sexual and gender-based violence incidents. However, many other humanitarian actors are indispensable partners for the implementation of initiatives to fight against sexual violence. For example, international and national non-governmental organisations often provide medical services, capacity building to the DRC justice system, promote sensitization activities on prevention of sexual violence. As such it is important to note that all humanitarian actors participate together in the prevention and response to sexual violence due to the cross-cutting nature of the domains of intervention.

  • Gender situation and sexual violence in DRC

    Gender situation and sexual

    violence in DRC

    Data collection on sexual and

    gender-based violence in DRC


    The relations between sexual

    violence and gender in DRC



    Conflict-related sexual violence:

     the case of Walikale and the case

     of Minova


    Gender inequality and sexual violence against girls, women, boys, and men, are pervasive human rights, public health and socio-economic problems across DRC.


    Sexual violence has defined the conflict in eastern DRC for years: it has often been, and still is, used as a weapon of war, and it is the cause of devastating experiences for thousands of girls, women, but also men and boys, in their homes, in IDP sites, on the road to farms, markets, and schools. In conflict-related situations, it is usually perpetrated by armed actors, such as militias or the Congolese army. Often, “the cases repeat themselves and share common characteristics: children are forced to be present or to hold their mother while they are gang raped, objects are inserted into genitals, individuals are attacked regardless of their age (children, women, young or old), and men are also raped. Such acts take place on a massive scale when such groups enter into villages, but the modus operandi also includes attacks against women in the middle of plains or jungle, when they go to fetch water, or when they are working in the fields” (from Engendering Peacekeeping. The case of Haiti and Democratic Republic of Congo, RESDAL publication).

    Sexual violence, especially against women and girls, is also committed in an appalling manner by civilian armed actors who are external to military institutions. Sexual abuse and exploitation take place in schools, homes, workplaces across the country, in urban and rural areas. The continuous violence in areas torn by conflicts, coupled with lack of education and sustainable socio-economic alternatives, likely creates a devastating loop that aggravates the already weak status and perception of women. In addition, it disrupts social relationships, and engenders further acts of sexual and gender-based violence of unprecedented cruelty. Women and girls are often being assaulted while gathering food, water and wood in order to provide for their families. Displaced women and girls are particularly exposed to exploitation, given their social and economic vulnerability, and it is not rare to see cases of having to exchange sex for food.


    It is extremely difficult to delineate realistic figures that present the magnitude of the phenomenon. Shame, stigmatisation, and inaccessibility or denial of assistance are among the reasons why victims often cannot seek help or denounce the cases. In addition, the data collection mechanism fails to cover the whole Country, and it is complex to compare the DRC case with that of countries with similar conflicts, for they rarely present widespread data collection mechanisms. The brutality of massive rapes’ cases, such as Walikale (North Kivu) and Minova (South Kivu), during which hundreds of victims were abused in a few days, is emblematic of the country’s dramatic scenario.

    Walikale and Minova are extreme cases of conflict-related sexual violence, yet it is important to understand that aggressions against smaller groups or individual victims occur daily in Eastern DRC. These include rape, sexual abductions and slavery, forced marriages, and other forms of sexual violence. Sexual aggressions committed by civilians are maybe less violent in terms of the amount of victims per incident, nevertheless their gravity and consequences for victims, and society as a whole, remain hugely important.


    Sexual violence is certainly deeply traumatic everywhere, yet community support, access to adequate assistance for survivors, and provision of fair trials for alleged perpetrators are indispensable to rebuild individual and community life. In DRC it is often not possible. Frequently, sexual violence and gender disparity, particularly against women, are so common that victims do not even know that they are entitled to rights. Stigmatisation is also very present, and victims of sexual and gender-based violence fear reprisals or rejections. In the end they suffer in silence or accept, encouraged by their families, alternative resolutions, such as marriage with the perpetrator or reparations in the form of livestock. Distance, insecurity and geographical inaccessibility are daily obstacles that impede access to medical structures, particularly in rural areas. Moreover, medical structures cannot always offer adequate service to victims because they lack specific medicines and trained medical personnel, or because they illegally don’t provide free of charge assistance. The Congolese legislation indeed adopted a law in 2006 that prohibits sexual violence in all its forms, and establishes that all victims of sexual violence are entitled to free medical and psychosocial assistance, with the provision of a medical certificate, which is extremely important to open a formal denunciation. Every justice sector, starting from police officers, should be trained and act accordingly to deal with denunciations. However, law enforcement remains a challenge due to lack of resources, poor accessibility, and social attitudes. Victims face such significant obstacles that they rarely follow the legal route, and a slightly bigger amount seeks medical assistance, though not always successfully.




    Who is responsible for dealing with sexual violence and how?

    Notwithstanding national and international actors, the first and most important actor responsible for protecting the population from sexual violence is the DRC Government. How to end impunity is seen as the greatest challenge of DRC’s fight against sexual violence, but it is widely recognised that an effective intervention needs to cover all cross-cutting domains that influence the perpetration of this violation and crime. These include: ensuring proper assistance to victims, tackling gender inequality, having a deep understanding of the country’s reality thanks to constant analysis and data collection, and counting with professional security and defense forces.

    Besides the law against sexual violence adopted in 2006 (law 06/18-06/19, in 2009, the DRC President announced a Zero Tolerance Policy against sexual violence acts committed by Congolese defense and security forces. In addition to the security forces’ obligations, during the same year the Government declared its intention of launching a broad campaign to stop sexual violence and assist survivors. To illustrate its determination, it adopted the Comprehensive Strategy combating Sexual Violence, a project developed under UN auspices and constituting a main pillar in the governmental National Strategy against Gender Based Violence in DRC. The strategy focus on five major points:

    · Fight against Impunity (led by the DRC Ministry of Justice and Joint UN Human Rights Office): working in collaboration with national and international NGOs, structures of the civil and military justice system, as well as the Congolese police and army. This point aims at facilitating access to justice for all victims of sexual violence. The complete process should include registering the complaint, ensuring a fair trial for victims and perpetrators, and obtaining reparations. Fighting against impunity also comprises: establishing a reference mechanism for all assistance services (medical, psychosocial, legal etc); training for law enforcement agencies and justice system personnel; capacity building for local and national NGOs; offering legal services for victims; and fighting against corruption within the justice system.


    · Prevention and Protection against Sexual Violence (led by DRC Ministry of Social Affairs and UNHCR): creation of a protective environment for each community, and sensitisation for all ‘target populations’ to prevent and act adequately when faced with sexual violence cases.


    · Multisectoral Assistance for Survivors (DRC Ministry of Health and UNICEF): working in collaboration with government, civil society, international NGOs and sister UN agencies. This point is to provide a comprehensive response to survivors of sexual violence including access to medical care, psycho-social support, reintegration assistance, and passing on to the adequate legal counseling and assistance. The Multisectoral Assistance for Survivors funds survivors’ access to services, and supports capacity building of service providers to ensure appropriate care. For example, training health providers on rape protocol and distribution of post-exposure prophylactics (PEP) is e

    ssential to ensure that girls and women receive the care they require. Mobile clinics and outreach efforts strive to reach victims in remote and poor areas.


    · Security Sector Reform (led by DRC Ministry of Defense and MONUSCO SSR): its main goal is to contribute to the creation of a Congolese professionalised army and security forces, which does not commit human rights violations and is able to protect the population against sexual and gender based violence. An official manual of training on human rights and fight against sexual violence has been developed and was validated by the Ministry of Defense. The Security Sector Reform is tasked to support the vetting process of the security and defense forces, in order to avoid having commanding positions, in both the military and police forces, occupied by human rights violators.


    · Data Collection and Mapping (DRC Ministry of Gender and UNFPA): this transversal component intends to establish a regular and harmonised data collection mechanism of sexual and gender-based violence cases occurring in DRC. It is meant to do so with the help of the data collected by services of assistance to victims (local health structures, national and international NGOs, justice systems structures, among others). A regular and coherent data collection mechanism, which maximises the geographical coverage and minimises the duplication of data, is an essential tool to analyse incidents, understand victims and perpetrators’ profiles, and know the response capacities. That is how it becomes possible to create or adjust solutions to better prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence.


    National Strategy combating Gender Based Violence in DRC FRENCH ONLY


    Action Plan of the National Strategy combating Gender Based Violence in DRC FRENCH ONLY


    Data collection on sexual and gender-based violence in DRC


    11.641 incidents reported in 2011, 18.795 in 2012, 5.214 (only for the South Kivu province)  in 2013. Data of reported incidents and victims of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in DRC are shocking. They show a problem of unprecedented magnitude, especially considering that many incidents are still unreported.


    Data are striking and seem to have the capacity of summarising a situation in a few numbers. For this reason, data on sexual and gender-based violence incidents are often perceived as indispensable elements for services providers, donors and media. Indeed, data and statistics are an essential tool in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, yet most of the time they are not supported by proper analysis, or they lack adequate comparative components. In such cases, data’s potential is quite limited: they certainly impress the audience, drawing the attention to the problem and contributing to advocacy for reducing sexual violence, but they are no comprehensive help for the design of effective strategies of prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence.


    Indeed, collecting and reading data is not only a matter of quantifying incidents, rather the point is to produce comparative data relative to a specific period of time and determined geographic area. These data should be specific enough to show statistics on the incidents’ profile (e.g. type of sexual and gender-based violence, place, time, and modality of the aggression), profile of alleged victims and perpetrators (e.g. age, profession, education), and type and quality of the received assistance (e.g. medical, psychosocial, legal assistance, and socio-economic reintegration). If well collected, data can be crucial to orientate or re-orientate strategies of prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence. For instance, if data reveal that in a specific area, victims of sexual violence are mainly women who are usually attacked in the evening when coming back from the fields, the provision of night patrols by peacekeepers is a possible solution – in as much as accessibility to the area and local population permit it. The field of data collection encompasses: provision of assistance to victims (including qualitative terms); victim’s profiles and victim’s profiles that seek and obtain assistance; perpetrators’ profiles, whether uniformed, civilian, or militia member; and perpetrator’s motivations, condemns, and possible socio-economic reintegration in society. All such information are crucial to establish effective assistance and prevent new incidents.


    However, obtaining regularly such a vast range of data, analysing them properly, and applying the statistics to strategies of civilian protection, is a tasked confronted with enormous challenges in DRC. Reporting incidents as intimate as sexual and gender-based violence is generally speaking very difficult for individuals in most cultures. As such, it is very probable that a vast number of shadow incidents remain unreported. Moreover, in the case of DRC, collection of SGBV data is aggravated by further difficulties:


    · Insecurity and geographic inaccessibility limit the coverage of data collection systems in vast areas of DRC.

    · Victims’ stigmatisation by local society, and protection risks due to perpetrators’ impunity, challenge the victims’ willingness and possibility to denounce the cases of violence.

    · Victims’ difficulties in reaching assistance structures, or receiving adequate services, decrease the amount data collected. Furthermore, the services providers often are not trained or do not have the capacity to properly participate in the data collection mechanism (lack of equipment, such as paper, IT or resources to send data to the central system).

    · The high risks of duplication of data, for example if the same victim seeks assistance in different structures, is enhanced by the necessity of applying confidentiality’s principles in every data collection concerning sexual and gender based violence.

    · Risks of ‘performing for donors’ can lead to a production of unrealistic or superficial data.

    In DRC, data collection on sexual and gender-based violence is overall quantitative, rather than qualitative. For example, data regarding the provision of psycho-social assistance to victims of sexual violence are still mainly focusing on the quantity of victims received, rather than the quality of the offered care and its impact on the patient. In addition, the interest is still very much on the process of data collection and statistics production. The capacity to use these data to elaborate comprehensive analyses is limited, and in the long run it impedes advances in prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence, wider strategies of civilian protection and long term stabilisation impacts. For instance, higher numbers of reported incidents from one year to another can be seen as the worsening of the sexual violence situation. Yet a deeper analysis can reveal that such an increase in fact is related to an increase in complaints and reporting. This may reflect improving sensitisation strategies and responses, better reporting capacities, and improvements at service providers’ level in both reacting to and reporting incidents. As such, what may come across as a negative trend may be very positive.


    In order to face data collection challenges and offer actors an accessible and complete instrument of statistics, the National/Comprehensive Strategy combating Sexual and Gender Based Violence adopted a transversal strategy that deals with data collection and mapping of actors operating in the domain of sexual and gender-based violence. The Data and Mapping strategy is co-lead by a government entity, the DRC Ministry of Gender, and supported by a UN specialised agency, UNFPA. The role of the Government in collection and validation of SGBV data in DRC is an emblematic progress, indicating a certain willingness of the Government to acknowledge its responsibility in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence in the country. Moreover the UNFPA is joined by all the actors providing assistance services to survivors (health structures, local and international NGOs, and state entities such as the justice system’s). This ensures a certain balance in the validation of reported SGBV information. Indeed data often is subject to exaggerations, especially in the case of sexual violence, for example they may be inflated to obtain funds from donors, or minimised in an attempt to present an improved image of the country.  The Data and Mapping component of the Strategy is an effort to ensure extensive coverage in data collection, and to propose an official data collection mechanism for DRC. The existence of this system does not deny the presence of other data collection systems (such as those of international and national NGOs), yet it provides an official and harmonized data and statistics system for the whole country and validated by the National DRC Government.


    The mechanism of data collection for DRC is based on data collected from the structures providing multi-sectoral assistance to victims of sexual and gender-based violence (such as NGOs, public health system, civilian and military justice system), as well as from those specialised in initiatives of prevention and sensitisation. This means that hundreds of different actors participate in this data collection effort, each under the mechanism of the DRC province where the actor operates. In each Province, collected data are monthly centralised in an electronic database under the Provincial Ministry of Gender and UNFPA, and validated in regular sessions led by the Provincial Minister of Gender, with the participation of all actors. Validated data are then sent at National level, where the National Minister of Gender, supported by UNFPA and specialised UN Agencies, approve the final validation and publication of data.





     “Ampleur des violences sexuelles en RDC et actions de lutte contre le phénomène de 2011 à 2012 »


    This complex mechanism faces several challenges. While technical solutions have been found to ensure confidentiality and avoid duplication, the mechanism’s coverage is still limited. The problems of insecurity and geographical inaccessibility, which already complicate the gathering of data from remote areas, are worsened by many actors’ resistance to participate to the data collection mechanism. Indeed It is still the case that this mechanism’s functionality is not recognised. However, the work of Data and Mapping component made evident progresses over course of the last year. The official data base system is now fully operative, and the launching of an online version is ongoing. It is also interesting that projects to evaluate the quality of medical and psychosocial services of assistance provided to victims of sexual violence have been started in the Eastern provinces of DRC. However, reported data are still far from offering a complete scenario of the reality of sexual and gender based violence in the country. Moreover, while the efforts to collect information on sexual violence are in progress, reporting data on gender-based violence incidents is still a big challenge. Gender issues are not perceived as such by the population itself, and denunciation of related violence, as well as provision of adequate assistance, is still extremely rare.

    The relations between sexual violence and gender in DRC


    “During the past year, increased attention has been paid to prevention in relation to conflict-related sexual violence. I call for greater attention to be paid to the full spectrum of security threats faced by women and girls. In this regard, I remain concerned about the quality of gender analysis and actionable recommendations reaching the Security Council”. The Secretary-General opened one of the last reports to Security Council on Women and Peace and Security with such a declaration in September 2013. The statement well reflects the situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo where, in the past few years, interventions of prevention and response mainly focused on cases of sexual violence, more than on gender based violence. Notwithstanding the adoption of the National/Comprehensive Strategy on Gender Based Violence in 2009, in DRC every actor, from Government to UN Agencies, NGOs and donors, worked more on the sexual violence aspect than on the gender aspect. Certainly, the fight against sexual violence, and especially against conflict-related sexual violence, requires specific strategies of protection and response: when related to armed conflict, the fight against sexual violence entails interventions related to protection of civilians and complex emergencies, often implying the involvement of specific actors such as peacekeeping military Forces. However, those specific approaches to fight against sexual violence should go along extensive approaches on gender promotion. A sustainable maintenance of peace can be ensured only if applying gender perspectives in all analyses and initiatives of civilian protection, peacekeeping and stabilisation.


    The whole DRC suffers from a deep gender inequality against women, worsened by the conflict in the Eastern part of the country. Gender inequality can be observed on a daily basis in DRC. Women mostly are assigned to domestic duties from an early age, which often results in them not having access to education and marrying very young. The latter practice also is widespread in the national army and is considered by the Congolese government a form of sexual violence. Often, early pregnancies for girls result in grave physical complications during childbirth, which can lead to death or create obstetric fistulas: grave injuries that devastate the lives of women suffering from it. These situations are extremely widespread in DRC, and demonstrate the need to implement strong and sustainable initiatives of gender promotion to the strategies combating sexual violence.

    Gender promotion initiatives take into account local population sensitization, and the community’s change of behaviour, with a necessary focus on the participation and responsibility of men. Yet, they also need to be applied to all domains related to maintenance of peace and stabilisation. For instance, many gender related issues are not yet considered in the Congolese justice system, such as the limitation of property inheritance for women, or the important amount of friendly arrangements using girls and women to solve local issues, often condemning them to forced marriages. These kinds of issues also should be part of the agenda of the Government, donors and service providers, seeing as they can influence gender promotion, which, in turn, impacts positively on the fight against sexual violence and the participation of women in peace processes.


    Regarding peacekeeping actors, even if their main mandates in DCR are the protection of civilians and stabilisation, they can have a very strong impact in gender promotion. The key would be to adopt a gender perspective in all analytical and operational activities. This implies that actors should be trained to understand gender aspects that are inherent to each domain of protection of civilians and stabilisation. For instance, the rehabilitation of a road, or the engagement of peacekeeping and stabilisation actors against illegal barriers, can have a great importance in promoting gender. They can give women, who usually are responsible for small trade activities, safer roads to reach market places, which, in turn, implies a greater security and more time to dedicate to other activities, such as care of family and children, better profit in the markets, and even time to take alphabetisation courses.

    Conflict-related sexual violence: the case of Walikale and the case of Minova


    Daily sexual violence aggressions have affected the Congolese population for years, and particularly in the Eastern part of the country where rapes, sexual abductions, sexual slavery, forced marriages, are among the violations suffered by women, girls, boys, men, and elders in DRC. Many of these aggressions are not reported, which increases the amount of victims condemned to living in sufferance, without assistance or protection from new attacks, and leaving perpetrators unpunished, able to repeat violence against the same or new victims. Nonetheless in other cases, violence reaches such massive proportions that it becomes an international spotlight, showing even to distant eyes the gravity of the conflict in DRC.

    Two cases of conflict-related sexual violence are drastically emblematic of the conflict situation in Eastern Congo: the case of Walikale, occurred in North Kivu province in August 2010, and the case of Minova, perpetrated in South Kivu in November 2012. These two incidents of massive rape show the complexity of the situation in Eastern DRC, and the strong need for Government and peacekeeping actors, such as civilian and military component, and UN system, to increase efforts of coordination, response and prevention for complex emergencies. Hundreds of civilians were sexually abused and raped during these two attacks, committed by armed groups in the case of Walikale, and by the Congolese National Armed Forces (FARDC) in Minova.

    The problem is not caused by a unique actor: it is not solely a lack from the side of the peacekeeping Forces, the civilian MONUSCO components, or the very DRC government. The accountability for such failures is a common one, and actors need to jointly work to improve the situation. In general, though, the peacekeeping Forces are the only actor immediately in the field, and they are expected to directly intervene to prevent and protect. In the case of MONUSCO, however, it seems like they are not prepared to deal with conflict-related sexual violence, be it to include them to prevention strategies, or to react adequately in case of incidents. Similarly, civilian substantive sections are not used to analyse and act according to a perspective of fight against sexual violence and promotion of gender: notwithstanding the efforts and some progress, this still limits a lot the real capacity of prevention and protection in such complex emergencies.


    The case of Walikale


    Walikale-centre, the administrative centre of the territory, is located around 135 km west of Goma, the chief-town of North Kivu province, in Eastern DRC. The territory of Walikale is rich in minerals, and consists mainly of mountain covered with abundant indigenous forests. Infrastructures and roads are almost inexistent, and phone coverage is very limited.


    In 2010, from 30 July to 2 August, a coalition of Congolese and foreign armed groups systematically attacked civilians in 13 villages situated along a 10 km axis on the Walikale territory. Assailants blocked the entrances to the axes, and during four days they travelled across the 13 villages, looting, killing, burning houses, abducting people and raping hundreds of women, girls, boys, elders and men.


    Even prior to the launching of the attacks, the weakness of the State authority was evident on the Walikale territory. The presence of a legitimate State authority was almost inexistent, with a proliferation of armed groups monopolising control over the mining industry. The National Security (PNC) and Defence (FARDC) Forces were extremely weak: only about 10 PNC, barely trained and scarcely equipped, were located on the axis, while FARDC were not present at all, after the battalion tasked to substitute the former one refused to rotate. In such conditions, the primary responsibility of the DRC Government in protecting civilians was obviously far from being accomplished.


    However, before the attack some humanitarian actors sporadically used to reach the axis, and troops of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) were based near to the axis, in a “Company Operating Base” (COB) which area of jurisdiction included the villages attacked by the coalition of armed groups. Notwithstanding the protection of civilians was the core element of the MONUSCO mandate, in the Walikale case MONUSCO was not able to intervene during the attacks. Later, it supported the legal response (deploying teams, including staff from the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office to the area to assess the security situation, evaluate the protection needs of the local population and verify the allegations of human rights violations, opening then an in-depth investigation) and multi-sectoral assistance to victims when the incidents was already over.


    The incapacity of MONUSCO to prevent, or at least to intervene during the incident, was worsened by the difficulties encountered by peacekeepers: the troops had not undergone specific training regarding the protection of civilians and interaction with communities in the context of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; they did not have local interpreters; no night patrols were conducted, and the ones during the day did not, or could not, cover regularly the whole area. Their capacity to gather information and intervene was limited by lack of military logistics, the poor road conditions and telephone network, the insecurity, long distances and remoteness of the area, and the fact that a rotation with new deployed troops was done few days before the attack.


    All such obstacles and faults resulted in an incident of dramatic proportions, with widespread and systematic human rights violations possibly motivated by the perpetrators’ political interests.


    MONUSCO later deployed more temporary bases of military peacekeepers in different locations, and the DRC Government also deployed more FARDC and PNC troops in the region. However, most of the perpetrators are still free, and the victims still await that justice be made, even if the suffering each one of them felt and still feel will never be erased.


    See also:


    In Walikale victims of attacks struggle to recover, 12 August 2011


    Final Report Of The Fact-Finding Missions Of The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office Into The Mass Rapes And Other Human Rights Violations Committed By A Coalition Of Armed Groups Along The Kibua-Mpofi Axis In Walikale Territory, North Kivu, From 30 July To 2 August 2010




    The case of Minova


    “On a November evening in 2012, around 8 p.m., Congolese government soldiers knocked on her door. Her five children scattered and hid in the bedroom. Her husband was already gone. He fled when he heard bullets fired earlier. When the soldiers entered the house, two of them threw her on the ground and began to rape her. The others began to pillage her home, carrying off the goods that her family had just received from an aid organisation — sacks of rice and corn, cans of cooking oil. Her husband returned in the morning. When he learned she had been raped, he left. He never returned. Her story wasn't a new one.”


     Testimony at the military trial on Minova case, March 2014,

    from “They will be heard: The rape survivors of Minova”, Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Al Jazeera


    In late November 2012, thousands of FARDC (Congolese National Defence Forces), fleeing the failure of combats against the M23 rebel groups in North Kivu, invaded the small town and surrounding villages of Minova, in the Northern part of South Kivu, looting and raping thousands of people during three days and nights.

    Even prior to the massive incident, the fall of Goma and the worsened combat situation in North Kivu triggered emergency alerts in South Kivu, the bordering province, seeing as important movements of population fleeing from the conflict were expected. Humanitarian and peacekeeping actors, together with the Government, were already implementing contingency plans in order to prepare for the expected flow of Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs): for instance, in the areas where IDPs were more likely expected, local structures were reinforced in medicaments and training to medical personnel, included equipment to treat cases of sexual violence. In many ways, national and international actors tried to better prepare for possible emergencies, learning from past failures. But no one expected such a big threat from the FARDC themselves, who were supposed to protect population. However, following the fall of Goma, thousands of angry, frustrated, disappointed FARDC troops poured to Minova and surrounding villages, brutally attacking the population in a systematic way: entire villages were looted during days and nights, with at least one thousand people losing their properties, and systematic massive rapes were committed before, during and after looting. Killings and arbitrary executions were also reported. 135 victims of rape were documented by MONUSCO, but some sources estimate that they could be up to one thousand. In the Walikale case, victims could not find adequate assistance within the delay of 72 hours (maximum limit to receive effective medical care in case of rape), because local health centres were not prepared and NGOs arrived too late. Whereas in the Minova case, several victims searched and obtained adequate medical assistance within the correct delay. In some ways, the coordination work of contingency plans and sensitisations established prior to the attack allowed many victims to find medical care. Yet such contingency plans were prepared expecting an increase of sexual violence cases perpetrated among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and local hosting families (due to the high promiscuity of the living conditions), and certainly not imagining the violence of the FARDC. In addition, the presence of the MONUSCO Forces this time could neither prevent, nor stop the violence. According to many sources, MONUSCO’s actions were mainly to calm assailants, and as such, reduce the scope of the situation. In any case, disorders lasted three days before FARDC authorities were able to take control again of their soldiers.

    MONUSCO, and humanitarian actors, strongly encouraged the DRC Government to trial alleged perpetrators as soon as possible, and worked hard to sensitise victims and witnesses, by protecting them and facilitating access to justice. The trial was organised in March 2014. A lot of victims were brave enough to testify in a protected and confidential way. The majority of the alleged perpetrators fled before the trial took place. Of the 39 Congolese soldiers on trial, 37 of the soldiers faced rape charges. Twenty-five of the accused were lower-ranked soldiers, and 12 were officers in charge of those soldiers. The trial had an international audience, but it resulted in a profound disappointment: the Court condemned 26 FARDC members, including two for rape, one for murder and most of the rest for “minor charges” such as looting and disobedience. Fourteen officers were acquitted and there is no apparent possibility for appeal, according to the Operational Military Court rules of procedure, even though this is in contradiction with international standards and the Congolese Constitution, both of which guaranteed the right to appeal.


    See also:


    “They will be heard: The rape survivors of Minova”, Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Al Jazeera, 14 March 2014


    UN human rights office ‘disappointed’ by ruling in DR Congo mass rape trial, 6 May 2014, UN News Center


    DRC: Some progress in the fight against impunity but rape still widespread and largely unpunished – UN report, 9 April 2014



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