Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Congolese Women Appeal to the Global Community

Congolese Women Offer Prescriptions for Ending Sexual Violence in Congo
Bibiane Aningina Tshefu, Women’s Coordinator & Adviser, Friends of the Congo and
Kambale Musavuli, Student Coordinator & Spokesperson, Friends of the Congo

During the week of March 1-12, 2010, several women from the D.R. Congo came to New York to participate at the United Nations 54th Commission on the Status of Women. This is a high level annual international Women’s Forum. The Congolese women represented both government and non-government sectors as well as different provinces of their country. They had ample opportunity to raise their concerns to the gathering during assembly, speak to United Nations officials, policy-makers, members of the New York civil society and community, as well as key members of President Obama’s administration.

The women came with a singular focus, to articulate how Congolese women felt the global community could best address the fourteen-year conflict in the D.R. Congo. Wherever the women ventured, whether it was a community forum in Harlem, gathering at local churches, forums at the United Nations or meetings with Obama administration officials, they articulated a consistent and resolute message. Listen to the Congolese for a change: as “we have repeatedly shared with the international community how they can optimally participate in bringing an end to the geo-strategic resource war in the Congo.”

Western based Think Tanks, humanitarian institutions and policy makers often argue that they have tried everything to bring an end to the conflict. However, a cursory look at the policies that have been prescribed or implemented reveals that almost every policy option tried, has avoided core grassroots women recommendations. Policies implemented by the international community are marked by a reluctance to pressure U.S. and British allies Rwanda, led by Paul Kagame and Uganda, headed by Yoweri Museveni. Also, in spite of the myriad United Nations studies, there has been deadly silence around the role of western mining interests in the perpetuation of the conflict.

The Congolese women shared the following prescriptions to bring an end to the conflict:
1. Call for an Inter-Rwandan dialogue between Rwanda’s Tutsi leadership and Hutu rebels inside Congo. There are no military solutions to what is essentially a political crisis.

2. Opening and expansion of democratic space inside both Rwanda and Uganda so their internal conflicts will cease being fought on the bodies of Congolese women.

3. Greater participation in political life and the decision-making process on the part of Congolese women.

4. Redirection of focus on the part of the global community from targeting the symptoms or effects of the conflict to addressing the root causes - primarily a foreign resource war being waged inside Congo to the detriment of innocent civilians.

In the final analysis, Sexual violence is a consequence of war, therefore, in order to end the violence against women, the conflict must end which requires an end to impunity inside the Congo and in the international community’s involvement in the Congo.

Click on below links to read the messages from the women:

Senator Eve Bazaiba Masudi – "The Political Implication of Congolese Women, for Change and the Promotion of Good Governance in the DRC "

Mme Annie Matundu Mbambi - "The Role and Involvement of Women in the Congolese Peace Process"

Mme Jeanine Gabrielle Ngungu - "The Problematic of Violence Against Women: A Major Challenge in the National Reconstruction Process"

Mme Marie-Claire Faray - "A Message From Congolese Women on the 8th March International Women's Day"

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) message from Congolese women. Video message read by Katherin Machalek, WILPF consultant.

Remember to join Friends of Congo on the Break the Silence Tour. Click here to see tour stops!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Congolese Women Message to the UK Parliament

1. Although the title of this event is stating that there is “Still no News on Congo”, we Congolese women have the following information for you; that we bring from the west and east of the country that human insecurity continue in DRC, because of poverty, corruption and lack of rule of law, illicit trafficking and proliferation of small arms, illegal exploitation of natural resources by multinational corporations in violation of OECD guidelines. Add to this, the inhumane treatment of soldiers. The Congolese soldiers are accused of being perpetrators, but we forget that they are also human beings and as well as victims who need and deserve special attention. The FARDC is made up of mixed rebels and non rebels men and women who have been abused by a vicious capitalist system, that is now asking the international community to train them while knowing that they are inhumanely treated, with no salary, homeless, no contact with their family and no sanitation. Furthermore the chain of command of the DRC army is one that is dictated by those who serve the interest of the multinational corporations that pillage the country while creating human insecurity. Sexual violence is not cultural or traditional in the D.R. Congo.

2. Sexual violence is a consequence and a strategy of war. It has been used as a tool of war, humiliation, destabilization and displacement of our communities. We cannot combat sexual violence without addressing the war and its roots causes. Statistics show that since 1997, the rate of sexual violence has increased proportionally to occurrence of the war and armed violence. There appears to be an internationally driven strategy to legitimize armed violence in the DRC provoking a low intensity war that is creating human insecurity and catastrophic humanitarian disasters through the displacement of entire populations. The atrocities and barbarity inflicted on the reproductive system of Congolese women was designed to negatively affect production for food security and reproduction of future generations of Congolese. This control of population growth in the DRC is an act of genocide. If you don’t want to call it that way, we Congolese are telling you that it is a 400 years old strategy to enslave and kill grassroots Congolese people in order to access precious and strategic natural resources. This is a strategy to stop human development of the Congolese people in particular and the Africa continent in general.

3. In order for change to occur in the DRC and to end this epidemic of sexual violence, we need to restore the rule of law and the human rights.

4. Today the DRC population is paying from the mismanagement of the 1994 Rwanda fratricide We. all share a passion to support Women in the Congo. We have have to support Congolese women who are working for change that entail building social, economic and political structures that will serveas foundations for genuine freedom, sustainable peace and development. This is a shared common vision and agenda to bring a definite end to the perpetration of the colonial relationship that exists between Congo and the West. Its time that the global community listen to grassroots Congolese, let Congolese drive the change required for human development and proceed with them on equal term as set by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

5. The international community, particularly the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, are invited to demonstrate a political will to end the conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa. They are invited to demonstrate their commitment to peace by delegitimizing armed violence and ending the militarization and the support of oppressive regimes in the Great Lakes region of Africa, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. The U.K. and U.S. governments are particularly invited to stop applying a double standard by following the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) guidelines and to call for effective inter-Rwadan and inter- Ugandan dialogues necessary for peace, security, good governance, economic development and regional stability. It is only by ending war and restoring the rule of law through distributive justice that sexual violence will be effectively addressed in the D.R. Congo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Message From Congolese Women on the 8th March International Women's Day

Only Congolese will initiate and bring change in the D.R.C.
Despite all local challenges and harmful international interference in R.D.Congo for the past 400 years, the biggest courage is the one demonstrated to overcome fear of the oppression and to act for change. The courage demonstrated by grassroots Congolese women to resist and overcome the fear of their local and international oppressors will always remain marked in the history of Africa . At this moment, many Congolese women are rising and sacrificing themselves in rewriting history and to liberate themselves completely from the bondage of those who continue to oppress them, in order to give themselves and their children a chance of survival as well as a better future to new generations.

Congolese women are rejecting the victimhood stereotype that is conferred to them by many local and international NGOs. Congolsese women , particularly those who have suffered from atrocious human rights violations (sexual violence), want to have some dignity and be known for their mental strength and ability to survive hardship. Congolese women refuse to be used as a propaganda tools by politicians or NGOs, and feel that the pictures of their nudity and poverty as well as that of their children should not be exposed in such as way in America and Europe to draw sympathy and money that will never even reach the recipients.

Furthermore, Congolese women deplore the fact that today many international NGOs are using the victims of sexual violence as a commercial tool to build the administrative capacity of their organisations while ignoring completely the need of Congolese women as well as undermining the effort of local grassroots women and disempowering them.

Sexual violence is not cultural or traditional in the DRC but has been used as a tool of war, humiliation, destabilization and displacement of communities. They want the international community to know that that Sexual violence will only end by the restoration of peace and the application of rule of law in the DRC.

The international, communities, particularly the permanent members of the UN SC are invited to demonstrate a political will to end the conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa . They are invited to demonstrate their commitment to peace by deligitimising armed violence, ending the militarization and the support of oppressive regimes in the Great Lakes region of Africa . The UK and US governments are particularly invited to stop double standard by following the OECD guidelines and to call for an effective interRwandan and InterUgandan dialogues necessary for Peace, Security, Good Governance, Economic Development and Regional Stability for eastern DRC, hence the Great Lakes Region. It is only by ending war and restoring the rule of law through distributive justice that sexual violence will be effectively addressed in the D.R.Congo.

In peace
Marie-Claire Faray