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“Our people are frustrated.” Congolese activist addresses Security Council

News Gender equity
Democratic Republic of the Congo -

Recent massacres in Eastern DRC have further aggravated the humanitarian situation in the region. Congolese Human rights defender Rebecca Kabuo urges the UN Security Council to act. She strongly condemned the gender-blindness of existing protection mechanisms and stressed the need for women’s political participation.

big screen in the UN security Council main room, showing the face of a young woman
Rebecca Kabuo, a Congolese activist addresses the UN Security Council on December 9th, 2022. The UNSC meeting focused on the security situation in Eastern DRC and the renewal of the MONUSCO mandate.

Rebecca Kabuo is a member of Lutte Pour le Changement (Struggle for Change, LUCHA). This is a Congolese nonviolent and non-partisan civil society movement. On December 9th, with support from Cordaid, she addressed the UN Security Council. The UNSC meeting treated the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO.

No adequate protection or security

Kabuo’s message was prompted by the brutal November attacks of the M23 rebel group in North Kivu. She calls upon the Security Council to ensure strict respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties.

She was highly critical of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC. “Our people are frustrated that MONUSCO has been in the DRC for more than twenty years but has not been able to end the cycle of violence or provide adequate protection or security for civilians. The shooting of at least 12 persons during demonstrations against MONUSCO forces in July further exacerbated the population’s rejection of them”, she said.

Call for responsible withdrawal of peacekeeping mission

Not surprisingly, Kabuo called for a gradual and responsible withdrawal of MONUSCO. This should be done after security sector reforms have been established.

For her, a clear and well-communicated MONUSCO transition plan, with important gender elements, is essential for a sustainable solution to the conflict.

“Civil society has not lost hope that peace will prevail. However, we will only succeed if the international community – including you, the Security Council – supports us in these efforts.”

Most prominently, in her statement Kabuo elaborated on the impact of conflict on women. And she stressed the importance to include women in political decision-making and peace processes on all levels.

“Full participation of women is essential to achieving sustainable peace”, the activist told the Security Council.

Sanctions regime

“It is well known that the conflict has had a deeply negative impact on women and girls. Gender-based violence has increased by 80% in 2021, yet access to justice remains difficult as perpetrators are rarely punished. Even the UN Security Council, which has the ability to set an example for the rest of the world through its sanctions regime, has not registered any new individuals or groups since 2020. More than a million people have been displaced, a significant proportion of them being women and girls. Women are not only at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence, but also of diseases such as cholera.”

Women human rights defenders at risk

Kabuo mentioned some of the odds women human rights defenders have to deal with. “[They] continue to be targeted by the authorities, and are subjected to death threats, arbitrary arrests, abductions, sexual and gender-based violence, office raids, and stigmatization[]. It is essential to monitor and report on attacks against women human rights defenders and peacemakers, especially since existing protection mechanisms have proven to be ineffective and gender-blind.”

Full participation in electoral and peace processes

In accordance with Security Council Resolution 1325, and with the upcoming elections scheduled for December 2023, she called for the full and active participation of women in all electoral and peace processes.

“Women still face significant barriers to polling stations, particularly in remote areas. [] Women candidates have to deal with lack of information, lack of funding and gender-based violence”, Kabuo told her audience. She asked MONUSCO to ensure the protection of citizens in the exercise of their voting rights. And to protect women candidates, observers, and administrators, especially in conflict areas.

Kabuo reminded the Security Council there were no women among the 30 delegates at the Nairobi talks in April 2022. She then asked the DRC government and MONUSCO to fully and meaningfully include women in all current and future negotiations. Especially given the active and essential role women have played in local peace efforts.

“We have not lost hope”

The young Congolese activist concluded her plea by saying that the Congolese civil society needs international support to keep hope alive.

“More than ever, the Congolese people are facing challenges that seem insurmountable. As representatives of civil society, we have not lost hope that peace will prevail. However, we will only succeed if the international community – including you, the Security Council – supports us in these efforts.”

Cordaid and the Just Future Alliance in DRC

LUCHA, of which Rebecca Kabuo is a member, is an independent Congolese youth civil society movement. Cordaid’s lobby and advocacy support for Rebecca’s contribution to the UNSC meeting on DRC, is part of Cordaid’s work for the Just Future Alliance in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cordaid’s Just Future programme in DRC focuses on access to security for all, transitional justice, and inclusive governance.