PRESIDENT JOSEPH KABILA VISITS NORTH KIVU TO ADVANCE SECURITY AND PROMOTE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
KINSHASA— Last week, President Joseph Kabila visited the North Kivu region to reaffirm and reinforce themes emphasized in his recent State of the Nation address to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The visit included particular focus on security and economic development, key priorities of the President since entering office.
During his State of the Nation address on December 14, the President highlighted his continued focus on strengthening the security of the nation, saying, “In the territory of Beni, in North Kivu, the opposition forces, which were defeated militarily there one year ago by our valiant armed forces, have gone from using conventional warfare to acts of targeted terrorism. Our security forces are working to bring an end their actions with the valuable support of our citizens.”
In Beni last week, President Kabila reviewed the security situation with military leaders and expressed his continued determination to rid the DRC of foreign forces. “With guidance from our President, the Congolese Armed Forces will not relent in the eradication of this illegal and destructive presence,” said Minister of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Reinsertion Crispin Atama Mabe.
Also during his visit to North Kivu, President Kabila attended the inauguration of a new hydroelectric plant near Goma, which is expected to bring 13.8 megawatts of power and further economic growth to the DRC and surrounding region. “Goma shows that with improved security comes critical economic development. Our eradication of the foreign rebel group M23 paved the way for this and other development projects,” said Minister Atama Mabe.
In neighboring Ituri province, another of President Kabila’s security objectives was also advanced last week. On November 16, a local DRC military court sentenced eight former military service members who had been convicted of sexual abuse. These sentences, ranging from seven years to the death penalty, represented another milestone in the DRC Armed Forces’ (FARDC) commitment to combat rape in war, a declaration that was established in March of this year.
The DRC has made great strides in tandem with the international community to stop sexual violence across its territory, as recognized in a recent UN report that noted a 33% decline in rapes attributable to armed men between 2013 and 2014. Some of the actions that the government has taken in recent years include:
- In March 2013, the DRC government signed a Joint Communique with the United Nations that outlined its priority areas in countering sexual violence.
- In July 2014, President Kabila appointed Jeanine Mabunda Lioko as his Personal Representative on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment. Since Ms. Mabunda’s appointment, which was hailed by the United Nations as a “new dawn,” the DRC has strengthened efforts against sexual violence. Ms. Mabunda's focus on combating impunity has resulted in an increase of prosecutions and convictions of those charged with sexual violence crime, including within the country's security forces.
- Between July and December 2014, 135 cases were brought before the courts in the government’s effort to fight against impunity for perpetrators of sexual assault. These cases brought sexual violence charges against military and police personnel, including high-ranking officers in each force.
- The DRC government established an emergency hotline in November 2014 to respond to victims of sexual violence seeking medical or legal assistance.
- Since January 2015, 197 FARDC soldiers have paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in combat operations to neutralize armed groups responsible for sexual crimes in South Kivu and North Kivu provinces.
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