DRC: Sexual violence still a painful reality of conflict, a UN official says
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict concluded her tour of eastern DRC after visiting Goma and Bukavu from 29 November to 2 December 2019. Pramila Patten is on her first official visit to the DRC. She is currently in Kinshasa where she will meet senior Congolese authorities, including the country’s First Lady who is engaged in the fight against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In eastern DRC, Pramila Patten said she was "very encouraged" by the commitment of the Congolese authorities in South Kivu and North Kivu in the fight against sexual violence. She pointed out, however, that sexual violence is still "a painful reality of conflict". And despite the efforts already made, she noted, there is still a very long way to go especially because, in 2019, for example, there has been an increase in cases of sexual violence verified by the United Nations.
In Bukavu, Pramila Patten discussed with Deputy Governor Marc Malago. A "very encouraging" discussion, she noted, in view of South Kivu’s commitment to pursue its efforts to combat sexual violence, a scourge that has affected the province for nearly two decades.
According to the Congolese National Police Unit in charge of Child Protection and Sexual Violence Prevention (EPEPVS), which Pramila Patten visited, South Kivu province recorded 197 cases of sexual gender-based sexual violence in 2019. Of the 164 persons arrested and brought to justice in these cases, 16 were soldiers.
Being interested in how cases of sexual violence involving uniformed personnel are treated, the UN Special Representative visited the Bukavu Military Courthouse, where she discussed at length with the First President of the South Kivu Military Court. Afterwards, Pramila Patten met with representatives of women's organizations, actors involved in the Shabunda Action Plan against human rights violations, and religious and traditional leaders of South Kivu, given their important role in the fight against sexual violence.
In addition to these actors of the criminal justice system and non-governmental structures, Pramila Patten and her delegation visited the Chahi hospital and the Panzi hospital, two hospital centers that provide medical and psychological care to survivors of sexual violence.
Before visiting South Kivu, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General was in Goma, North Kivu, where she had a working session with the Governor of North Kivu, Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, on 29 November. At the center of the discussion were the measures that need to be reinforced to permanently eradicate the scourge of sexual violence.
After her meeting with the North Kivu Governor, Pramila Patten made the following statement: "I reaffirmed my office’s commitment to work closely with the Government of the DRC in this fight. He pledged to continue his advocacy. He was aware that these are horrific crimes that can be avoided if peace is restored in the country ", she said.
Finally, with all her interlocutors, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict expressed her determination to continue to support the Government and assist it in in all its efforts to prevent cases of such violence.