Sometimes no news is good news

That seems true for the Democratic Republic of Congo at the moment.  Papers, blogs and broadcasts have been awash with a variety of news stories from the DRC in recent days.  And they've not been particularly positive.  Over the weekend, hundreds of people were reported to have drowned in separate boat accidents and reports suggest that fishermen rushing to the aid of one of the sinking ships were more interested in rescuing the boat’s possessions than its passengers.  

Today the UN Secretary General has flown to Rwanda to discuss the furore that has been sparked as a result of the leaked UN report which accuses Rwanda of committing acts of genocide in DRC during 1996 – 1997.  

Also today the Guardian reports how a UN official admitted that Monusco – the UN’s peacekeeping force – failed to protect victims of mass rape in the DRC this year, in ignoring warning calls by community leaders. The UN’s Special Rapporteur – Margot Wallstrom – provided some worrying insights when she stated that rape as the ‘weapon of choice in eastern [Congo]… is reaching endemic proportions’ and that ‘incidents of rape have become so commonplace that they do not trigger our most urgent interventions.’

Ms Wallstrom’s statement if true is not only shocking, it also runs the risk of making a mockery of the three Security Council Resolutions in place to address the use of sexual violence in time of conflict.  UN SC Resolutions 1325, 1820 and 1888 all make it clear that mass rape and sexual violence in conflict is considered a war crime. As such, the heaviest hand of justice should be served against anyone who commits this crime. Certainly a blind eye should never be turned to any warning signs about a crime of this magnitude.  Amnesty is urging the UN to carry out an immediate review into the failings of both the government and the UN in not protecting civilians.

Impunity must no longer be tolerated when it comes to acts of rape and sexual violence in conflict – particularly the conflict that’s raged in eastern Congo for so long.

Next month marks the ten year anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. UN officials will meet next month to consider progress made on this Resolution. There is tragic irony then to see how in reality very little has changed in a decade to protect women from sexual violence in conflict.

UN Security Council Resolutions which aim to tackle women in conflict must be supported by concrete action and genuine political will.  Otherwise, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on.

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