Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is expected to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to raise awareness on the sexual violence pandemic among other things during her 11 day trip to Africa. The solution to this problem which has been going on since 1996 is long overdue. The United Nation’s report S/2009/362 states that about 200,000 cases of rape have been reported in the DRC since the war began in 1996. This estimate is ‘conservative”, the report points out, because it does not take into account the many victims who did not survive the attacks, those who live in places out of reach by data collectors, and those forced to hide because of shame, fear of retaliation or rejection by their families or the community.

It is imperative that the United States of America stands firm in its support of the women of the Congo by asking the Congolese government to protect women andmen against sexual violence. Fighting the local and foreign rebel groups who are primarily responsible for these crimes is a step forward. Also bringing to justice everyone in the Congolese army and also civilians accused or suspected of this crime is a must along with investigating every case since 1996. While the United Nation’s reports S/2009/253 and S/2009/362 mention the Congolese government’s lack of capacity to deal with the overwhelming cases, they also point to the lack of political will. The U.S government should demand that the Congolese government apply the No Amnesty Law for gender based crimes.Human Rights Violation in DRCHuman rights advocates continue to be arrested and jailed for doing their work which sometimes involves exposing the misdeeds of the government. For example, in Katanga province, Mr. Golden Misabiko, President of the African Association for the defense of Human Rights Association Africaine de défense des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO) in French was arrested on 24 July by the intelligence services in the provincial capital, Lubumbashi for reporting on illegal and dangerous mining of Uranium in Katanga. On July 28, Lambert Mende, DRC’s minister of communication and media, attacked Human Rights and Environmental NGOs, and shutdown Radio France Internationale (RFI) broadcasts in the DRC on 26 July. He accused these organizations of attempting to undermine the government. Local media are censored is an effort to keep the people uninformed and therefore to exploit and oppress them better. It is important that Secretary of State Clinton makes clear to the Congolese government that the respect of Human Rights and civil society empowerment are part of the terms and conditions of the U.S-Congo partnership. Under no circumstance did the Congolese people think the 32 years of the dictatorial regime nightmare of the late President Mobutu Sese Seko could be revived, but it looks like it is now in motion with President Joseph Kabila.

Rwanda-Congo Conflict

Pointing to the recent joint military operation Congo-Rwanda and the recent accreditation of the Congolese ambassador to Rwanda and the many meetings that Congolese officials have had with their Rwandan counterparts, the U.S government consequently believes that Rwanda and Congo are normalizing their relationship. This is in fact the goal, but how far are they from achieving it? It is important to note that the deal that led to the joint military operations in January 2009 jeopardized this relationship even more. Through this deal, the Rwandan government was able to infiltrate the Congolese army through integration, which was done without proper citizenship identification, of former forces of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) rebel group. These soldiers were enlisted in CNDP as the Rwandan government’s military support to the movement and its effort to fight the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Although the Congolese government has been ignoring this issue for fear that CNDP forces might withdraw from the integration process, it is even more dangerous to let them use Congolese finances to organize a more robust rebellion inside the Congolese army’s structure. The U.N report S/2009/263, paragraph 35 states that “…CNDP military officers who are now in FARDC are operating parallel command structures.” It is imperative that without delay, the Rwandan government come forward with the names of its citizens who are either in the not yet integrated CNDP troops or already integrated in the Congolese army to facilitate their repatriation. We urge Clinton to send a clear message to the Rwandan government that it must comply with that request.

Foreign Rebel Groups on Congolese Territory

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR ), a Rwanda rebel group and the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) , a Ugandan rebel group are one of the primary causes of the ongoing killing, massive rape and displacement, abduction of men and children, sex enslavement, burning houses and torture in eastern Congo. The ongoing Congolese military campaign against these groups and two joint military operations, Operations Umoja Wetu and Lightning Thunder, have not been able to dismantle them, but instead have created massive retaliation against civilians. In the same way the Congolese government has been opening negotiations with Congolese rebel groups, Rwanda and Uganda should negotiate with their respective country’s rebel groups for a quick end to the suffering the latter have caused to many Congolese communities. Clinton should pressure the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to open dialogue in order to hasten their departure from Congo.
Natural Resources Exploitation
Illegal exploitation of the minerals from eastern Congo is a huge financial resource for all the rebel groups, foreign and local, operating in the area. Not only does this fuel the war, but it also enriches the countries involved to the detriment of the Congolese people. The number one exporter of Congo’s war zone minerals is Rwanda followed by Uganda and Burundi. They have been cashing in since Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Congo in 1996. While the Congolese government has not been able to regulate its natural resource exploitation, it is important that a regional effort be made first to diminish rebel groups’ cash access from mineral sales and also to stop these countries from participating in the looting of Congolese resources and fueling war in Congo. Diminishing rebel group’s capacities to buy weapons is a step forward toward ending their existence. Clinton should reengage these nations once again and find a solution for the illegal trading of Congolese natural resources.
Additionally, with regard to American corporations involved in the mining sector in the Congo, we ask that the United States require them to not buy minerals from eastern Congo unless cleared by the government. Also, they should abide by standardssuch as the following, recommended by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development): compliance with Human Rights, the protection of the environment, the creation of sustainable development, and saying no to bribery and corruption.
Africa Faith and Justice Network commend the U.S. government for every effort made so far with regards to peace in the Congo and the great lakes region in general, however, more still needs to be done. Solutions to the many problems facing Congo are long overdue. Consequently, every delayed day toward peace and stability is a day of loss of great proportion.