Women lead protests against conflict violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo, amid calls for action on hundreds of civil war crimes. Thousands of people took part in demonstrations in four cities across the Democratic Republic of the Congo, demanding justice for historic murders and rapes committed in the east of the country. Police beat protesters in Kisangani as they marked a decade since the UN documented hundreds of crimes in DRC between 1993 and 2003 that have not been prosecuted.
At least 3,500 survivors of sexual violence joined the protests and hundreds of lawyers fronted the march in Bukavu, the base of peace laureate Dr Denis Mukwege, whose Denis Mukwege Foundation backed the demonstrations. Mukwege was unable to attend himself, having faced death threats for his campaigns against the violence committed during the two civil wars that took place during that period. 5,000 people had attended the march in Bukavu, the eastern city in South Kivu province, where Mukwege’s Panzi hospital has specialised in treating survivors of sexual violence in conflict.
A spokeswoman for Mukwege, Maud-Salomé Ekila, said: “We have impunity here in the Congo because we don’t have justice…the perpetrators know they can act like they want. It is impossible to build peace in this country without justice. You have survivors of this war who are traumatised, they didn’t even have the occasion to bury their family, they don’t know where they are.”
Protesters also called on the UN to provide the names of alleged perpetrators who were not identified in the original report. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement that the lack of justice allowed similar abuses to continue unpunished.
“Widespread impunity continues to reign in Congo and the wider region, contributing to the recurrence of killings and other serious crimes,” said Amnesty’s director for east and southern Africa, Deprose Muchena.