Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2293 (2016), 2277 (2016), 2211 (2015), 2198 (2015), 2147 (2014), 2136 (2014), and 2098 (2013), the Security Council calls on all stakeholders in the DRC to swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement and ensure an environment conducive to a free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely electoral process. In addition, Resolution 2348 (2017) specifically urges for the full participation of women at all stages of the electoral process. Resolution 2348 (2017) also demands that all armed groups cease immediately all forms of violence.
The report’s primary focus is on the preparations for the elections scheduled in December 2018 and the steps taken to ensure accurate and fair voter registration and the protection of voting machines. As to the security situation, the Secretary-General outlines that in both north and south Kivu the situation has deteriorated, but that the situation in Ituri and Tanganyika have improved, despite continued tensions. The report outlines in vague terms that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative met with local stakeholders and civil society members, however what was discussed and what issues were raised are not mentioned. The Secretary-General states that the economic situation in the DRC, though not yet secure, was improving in the sense it is now more stable and inflation is less a threat to economic development.
Ultimately, the report mentioned women in seven out of one hundred and two paragraphs , 7%in generally very vague terms. In the section titled ‘gender implementation’, the Secretary-General states support for female candidates in the upcoming December elections, and details MONUSCO’s work on convincing a female militia to lay down their arms. Similar to the the previous report, there is little attention given to the work done by women’s grassroots organisations.
The report expressed concern for deteriorating human rights conditions in the DRC. Specifically, the report’s paragraph on sexual violence documents some 98 women and 18 children as victims, but fails to outline measures that can be introduced to prevent these crimes.
Similar to his previous report, the Secretary-General stresses the importance of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. Interestingly, most mentions of elections detail events that have compromised the democratic process or transition of power; there are no mentions of the election as a mechanism for peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction. The report does not mention the recent Electoral Law that was introduced by the current government, adopted on 15 December 2017 and signed by President Kabila on 24 December 2017. This law has raised concerns as it reduces the likelihood of small political parties and independent candidates gaining seats; it also does not provide mechanisms to support gender parity, as enshrined in the Constitution. The report of the Secretary-General does not not mention this law, despite the issue that it clearly has a considerable effect on the democratic process in the DRC. Further, though the voting machine deployment and use is discussed in several paragraphs the issue is never related to gender or literacy. One point of contention is the proposal of the Congolese government to use voting machines which, in addition to the possibility of electoral fraud, discriminates against the 65% illiterate population, most whom are women. The Secretary- General fails to outline any comprehensive mechanisms for ensuring the protection of women candidates and voters in the upcoming elections. As stressed by many civil society actors, women running independently in elections face major obstacles under the proposed electoral law.
Sexual violence is mentioned in several parts of the report but never in particular detail, either relating to the current situation or protection measures implemented or planned aside from some ‘confidence building initiatives’. Once again, Congolese women are portrayed as victims of the conflict as opposed to a vital agents of the recovery and reconciliation process. Beyond this, there are no measures or actions outlined to ensure protection on the part of either the government of the DRC or MONUSCO.
There is one paragraph dedicated to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), in which the Secretary-General notes that there are some training programmes introduced for personnel, and that 10 allegations against MONUSCO were documented. Beyond introducing a new curfew and the aforementioned training programme, and some informational posters, the report provides no details on any comprehensive response led by the UN in response to this issue.
The Secretary-General outlines that MONUSCO deployed a female engagement team to work with women and other members of the community. The report states that in March and May, Projet d’appui au cycle électoral au Congo (PACEC), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and MONUSCO organised workshops in Tanganyika and Haut-Katanga on women and elections to support potential female candidates in preparation for the elections. The report also states that MONUSCO supported 40 prospective women candidates, in April and June, in developing a strategy to secure the commitment of the ‘leadership of their political parties’ to put more female candidates on their electoral lists. Other than this, there are no steps outlined as to in what ways, and by what mechanisms, MONUSCO aims to ensure women’s participation in the political and peacemaking process. The report does nothing to stipulate any steps taken to counter the issue of SGBV and rape in voting places or offer suggestions on how MONUSCO and other security forces can ensure the safety of women voters, including internally displaced women.
Relief and Recovery
Overall the report does not contain comprehensive suggestions for gender specific relief and recovery processes, nor does it outline any current gender-sensitive recovery initiatives in detail. Further, the report outlines that in its efforts to improve gender responsiveness in protection of civilians, MONUSCO persuaded a group of women to lay down their weapons and use peaceful means to protect their communities. The group, known as “Wa Mama Tujigombowe” (“Let us free ourselves”), had taken up arms to ensure the security of its members.
In the future, the Secretary-General should call upon MONUSCO to improve its collaboration with national and civil society organisations to better coordination mechanism and ensure the rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable. A gender-sensitive protection plan should be established to address the full range of assistance needs required by women and girls, including but not limited to food and health services. MONUSCO’s monitoring of SGBV and related human rights violations must be perpetuated, with particular priority given to areas that have experienced the most violence and instability. Increased security is necessary in areas where voting takes places, and during the elections. It is imperative that the Secretary-General encourage the strengthening of women politicians, candidates, activists, and human rights defenders be protected and be active participants in political agreements, the National Action Plan on Resolution 1325 (2000) and any national strategies aimed at combating (SGBV). Additionally, in order to strengthen the implementation of MONUSCO’s mandate, the Secretary-General should advocate for including gender as a cross-cutting issue and working with women civil society to strengthen gender analysis and perspective in the work of the mission, including around monitoring of electoral violence.
Women’s representation in public office should be a key element of future reports, starting with the new electoral law and the distribution of seats. The Secretary-General must work with political supporters of gender equality both within and outside the government to encourage women’s meaningful political participation. It is recommended that a more compressive gender sensitive security strategy be implemented to increase the participation of women voters, and MONUSCO should consider women-only registration sites, and greater flexibility in terms of voter identity regulations for displaced women.
Here should be also plans for strengthening action to ensure women politicians, candidates, activists and human rights defenders are protected in the context of implementation of the political agreement, the National Action Plan on Resolution 1325 (2000) and any national strategies aimed at combating (SGBV). Future reports should in the very least advocate for ensuring the provision and appropriate resourcing of gender-responsive services for and access to justice by survivors of violence.
Further, there should be more research into the barriers to female participation in both the political and peacekeeping realms. Future reports should also outline in precise the steps taken, or not taken, by the DRC government and relevant actors in regard to the protection of women politicians, candidates, activists and human rights defenders.
Future reports should outline accountability mechanisms put in place to ensure the ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ is a rule of law and not a rule of thumb. In the future, the Secretary-General should outline in detail the mechanisms for ensuring accountability for SEA.. Additionally, the introduction of a Women’s Situation Room aimed at mitigating the conflict before during and subsequent to the elections.
Relief and Recovery
Vital to relief and recovery are accountability mechanisms; in the future the Secretary-General should call for the strengthening of transparency and accountability. Necessary to this is democratic accountability and representation. In future reports, the Secretary-General should support the participation of women and civil society by inquiring about the efforts of the government and relevant actors in addressing existing barriers to women’s representation and participation in political and security processes as well as strengthening action to ensure women candidates, politicians, activists and human rights defenders are protected. Further, future reports should outline the need for the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Investigation (Commission d’Enquête Mixte 3121) of the Ministry of Human Rights into the violent oppression of peaceful demonstrations by the security forces on 31 December 2017 and on 21 January 2018.