Engaging Non-State Armed Groups in the ‘Fight’ Against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Eastern Congo

Introduction

According to the UN Secretary-General’s 2014 report, “Conflict Related Sexual Violence,” Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is closely related to larger issues of insecurity, security-sector reform, and to the incomplete, and/or flawed disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes in post-conflict settings.[1] In times of conflict, many factors aggravate SGBV, such as the polarization of gender roles, the militarization of society, the proliferation of arms, and the breakdown of law and order. The prevalence of SGBV in conflict has lasting effects on the security of communities affected, where SGBV exists in many post-conflict settings when various sides in a conflict struggle to demobilize and resume their lives alongside one another.[2] SGBV continues not only to tear the social fabric of society apart but also to directly affect the durability of peace and prospects for sustainable development. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), these issues prevail because significant challenges remain in effectively preventing SGBV. While Congolese military efforts recently succeeded in pressuring commanders in the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) to sign a landmark declaration to spearhead SGBV prevention efforts, Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs), who are also largely complicit in SGBV crimes, remain difficult to engage.[3] This paper focuses on the approaches of three international organizations in Eastern DRC—the ICRC, Geneva Call, and Search for Common Ground—engaging with NSAGs in SGBV prevention efforts. I analyze SGBV prevention efforts through a theoretical framework contextualizing NSAGs’ risk factors associated with committing acts of SGBV originally identified in a UNICEF/United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) DRC 2010-2011 mission report. Given the complex analysis integrated into an understanding of SGBV and NSAGs in the DRC, the first section of the paper highlights some of the practical challenges and prospects for engaging NSAGs in reducing and preventing wartime sexual violence in the DRC.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the DRC

Prevalence of SGBV

The UN estimates that 200,000 women and girls had been assaulted over the 12 years preceding 2008 in the DRC.[4] Moreover, in 2014, ahead of the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) claimed that at least 20,000 women and girls, or 2 women every hour, would become a victim of SGBV in the DRC without immediate action last year alone.[5] Measuring the prevalence of SGBV in the DRC, however, remains extremely difficult because of insecurity developments, a weak judicial system, a largely underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure, and the sensitive nature of rape itself.[6] Although there is limited epidemiological data capturing the number of victims of SGBV in the DRC, a study by Johnson et al. (2010) found that 40 percent of all women and 24 percent of all men in a random sample in Eastern DRC were victims of sexual violence, where 74 percent of the cases of sexual violence against women and 65 percent of the cases against men were conflict-related.[7] These estimates and statistics illuminate the gravity of the issue, but it is necessary to move beyond a statistics-based understanding of SGBV in the DRC in order to understand the underlying factors that drive SGBV. While Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV), or ‘rape as a weapon of war’ is attributed to security issues in the country, SGBV is prevalent in all spheres of society, in times of conflict and post-conflict, where victims and perpetrators include both FARDC and NSAGs soldiers and civilians—irrespective of age and gender.[8]

International Strategy to Combat SGBV

International focus on SGBV in the DRC gained momentum following a 2002 Human Rights Watch report, “The War within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo,” which drew attention to the brutal nature of SGBV in the DRC.[9] Thus, international attention began to recognize the gravity of sexual violence as part of the insecurity of Eastern DRC. Consequently, SGBV was classified as a ‘weapon of war.’ However, the international community’s concentration on SGBV as a consequence of mineral resource trafficking has diverted focus from other causes of violence including land conflict, poverty, corruption, local and state predation, and general hostilities between security forces, state officials, and the general population.[10] Furthermore, armed groups operate through means beyond mineral resource extraction such as cattle herding, poaching, the timber trade, and the imposition of unofficial fees and taxes on communities.[11] Critically, natural resource exploitation in the DRC is a secondary factor fueling a larger struggle for social and political power occurring in a context of extreme poverty and inequality affecting the lives of civilians and combatants, both in the Congolese armed forces and in NSAGs.[12] By focusing on one cause of violence (SGBV) and one solution to it (banning illegal mineral exploitation), policy has been diverted from needed areas of attention, including land rights, the reform of the state administration, the fight against corruption, and the resolution of grassroots antagonisms.[13]

Alleviation versus Prevention

While the increased attention to SGBV has provided many SGBV survivors with much needed assistance, there remain significant challenges in effectively preventing SGBV. In 2010, the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy found that 72 percent of international funds for sexual violence in the DRC were devoted to treating victims of rape, compared to only 27 percent to preventing sexual abuse.[14] Striking the balance between SGBV assistance-based and prevention programs, however, is difficult when SGBV survivors have severely limited access to existing public services, such as health care and justice, due to poor public service delivery in the country.[15] Thus, the need to alleviate suffering and tend to those affected through assistance programs takes precedence over prevention programs.

Non-State Armed Groups

Intra-state conflicts worldwide are generally “waged for the control of populations, as much as territory.”[16] Although the fighting in Eastern DRC has varied in degrees of intensity since 1996, much of the fighting has occurred between poorly controlled domestic armed groups, as well as foreign armed groups, who have undermined attempts to secure peace in the region since the end of the Rwandan genocide. Given the nature of the conflict, NSAGs and the Congolese forces attack civilians often rather than attacking one another. Since NSAGs may act as local defense militias and the FARDC units are often stationed in settlements for the purpose of civilian protection, combatants and civilians are mixed together. In both instances, combatants’ families are often residing in this military deployment area.[17] While civilians are protected under Rules 93, 134 (women), and 135 (children) of Customary International Humanitarian Law (IHL) against SGBV, the FARDC and NSAGs continuously fail to respect these rules. Although IHL applies to CRSV, it is difficult to address SGBV, which occurs in a post-conflict setting but is conflict-related. SGBV perpetrated by civilians is linked to severely traumatized ex-combatants from NSAGs and the FARDC who took their violent behavior home. At the same time, a conflict-centered understanding of SGBV in the DRC limits SGBV as rooted in the normality of socio-cultural norms and gender dynamics in Congolese society.[18]

As the increased humanitarian focus on SGBV assistance in the DRC has allowed for many SGBV survivors to voice their testimonies, it has failed to seek an understanding of SGBV from the perpetrators themselves and how they perceive their own crimes.[19] In analyzing why combatants inflict SGBV on civilians, it is important to note that combatants are victim to different forms of violence, while some are victim to SGBV. For instance, a 2011 study conducted with ex-combatants from 16 different armed groups found that 12 percent of ex-combatants had been sexually assaulted, and in most instances the perpetrator was the commander of the victim.[20],[21] In light of this example, it is difficult to point to individual motivations for acts of SGBV; behavior is more likely attributable to a complex web of social, political, economic, and historical circumstances.[22]

During 2013, the Government of the DRC recorded 15,352 incidents of SGBV in eastern DRC (North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and Ituri Districts).[23] The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) verified 860 cases of sexual violence committed by parties to the conflict. NSAGs were responsible for 71 percent of the cases verified by MONUSCO, while national security forces, mainly the FARDC and the national police, were responsible for 29 percent of cases. On March 31, 2015, Special Representative for the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, praised the FARDC military commanders’ signing of the declaration as a “milestone” to ending CRSV. The pledge will be taken by every commander serving in the FARDC and requires military leaders to respect IHL and take direct action against sexual violence committed by soldiers under their command, including the prosecution of alleged perpetrators.[24] While this declaration offers potential in the fight against SGBV, its success lies in the will of the FARDC. Although the declaration provides a structure for FARDC accountability, it is not applicable to NSAGs because they are not recognized in international agreements. Through different programmatic approaches, however, international organizations in the DRC—the ICRC, Geneva Call, and Search for Common Ground—have engaged NSAGs working to prevent SGBV. The following section will position the different approaches of these organizations and how they may influence the behavior of NSAGs through reducing risk factors associated with committing SGBV as identified in the UNICEF/OCHA DRC 2010-2011 mission report.

Theoretical Framework

Although there is no preliminary framework targeting SGBV prevention work with NSAGs in humanitarian settings, a framework adapted under the WHO Ecological Model[25] has been applied to organize a primary prevention model for SGBV work with NSAGs in the UNICEF/OCHA DRC 2010-2011 mission report. This model presents a comprehensive approach to understanding the contributing factors of SGBV at various levels and highlights the connection between these factors and potential prevention interventions.[26] Lori Heise’s Ecological Model (1988) as found in the WHO’s World Report on Violence and Health,[27] provides a useful framework for understanding the perpetrations of SGBV by NSAGs in suggesting that the causes of violence extend beyond a perpetrator’s individual level and are the result of larger community and societal level factors that allow violence to thrive.[28] Reportedly one of the most widely accepted frameworks for understanding risk factors associated with violence,[29] it organizes existing research findings into a model to establish what factors emerge as predictive of violence at each level: individual, relationship, community, and society.[30]

SGBV Primary Prevention Model for NSAGs 

While the findings of the multi-phased UNICEF/OCHA initiative include examples of contact and relationship building between NSAGs and humanitarian actors, there are few instances of engagement specifically to prevent SGBV against civilians.[31] There is a need to better understand the motivations and behavior of NSAGs and to better coordinate with humanitarian actors across sectors to identify best practice strategies engaging with NSAGs.[32]

From December 1, 2010 to August 2011, UNICEF and OCHA commenced a multi-phased initiative under the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict Multi-Donor Trust Fund to improve knowledge on how to prevent NSAGs from committing CRSV and to develop resources, which can be used by international and field-based actors to mobilize prevention efforts. The first phase of the study included a mapping assessment of NSAGs in the DRC to collect information about perpetrations of sexual violence and the identification of key “influencers” at the international, national, regional, and local levels who might impact the behavior of NSAGs.[33] Analyzing the findings of Phase I, a proposed framework based on the Ecological Model[34] has been applied, providing a foundation for future research and action in the field. The framework, adapted from public health and violence against women prevention work and conflict management concepts, contextualizes some of the risk factors associated with perpetrations of sexual violence by NSAGs and links these risk factors to interventions identified in Phase I. Under the original Ecological Model, risk factors associated with violence are categorized into four levels: individual, relationship, community, and society. Thus, the ecological approach to violence prevention attempts to explain violence as arising out a complex interplay of conditions at these levels.[35]

Adapting the Ecological Model to consider risk factors relevant to CRSV committed by NSAGs, the first level, individual, encompasses the personal history risk factors of an individual member of an NSAG. The relationship level, then, examines the group dynamics and social interactions between the members of the groups. Third, the community level applies the physical environment in which the NSAG lives and operates and their interactions with local communities. Lastly, the societal level describes the larger dynamics that perpetuate the perceived need for armed resistance/overall structures in the social order. By identifying the risk factors found in Phase I categorized under the Ecological Model, there is belief that NSAGs can be influenced through various means including: military, social, economic, political, and social.[36] Under this logic, primary prevention efforts should focus on reducing the risk factors identified in Phase I, considering these risk factors in the design of programs, research, and monitoring and evaluation strategies. Moreover, prevention efforts should consider the interplay between risk factors at different levels.[37]

Research Methodology

This research references the risk factors identified in the 2010-2011 UNICEF/OCHA study under the Ecological Model framework, as well as “influencers” according to the categorized level of capabilities. These “influencers” operate under different conditions, with different capabilities, and at different levels. For instance, local-based actors generally have knowledge of conflict dynamics, local networks, cultural beliefs, and risks that can serve in engaging NSAGs.[38] States and inter-governmental organizations, however, have a stronger capacity to mobilize political influence and can serve an important role in prevention efforts by strengthening and promoting international law and norms. In order to develop successful prevention efforts engaging NSAGs on the issue of SGBV, it is essential to initiate contact, encourage dialogue, and maintain relations with NSAGs.[39]

This study specifically focused on international organizations currently engaging directly or indirectly with NSAGs in the DRC to reduce and prevent SGBV including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva Call, and Search for Common Ground. Interviews were conducted with four experts representing these organizations to identify the level of engagement with NSAGs in the DRC and programs focused on preventing SGBV, whether directly or indirectly. A series of questions were geared to each organization’s mandate, while general questions were compiled for a comparison of programs from each organization in attempt to position each organization’s influence over the behavior of NSAGs, or in reducing risk factors associated with SGBV as identified in the 2010-2011 UNICEF/OCHA study. The experts interviewed for this study have had significant experience working in the DRC and Great Lakes region as both researchers and practitioners. Understanding that there are conflicting views surrounding SGBV assistance and prevention programs in the DRC from both researcher and practitioners, measures were taken to safeguard interviewees right to confidentiality if preferred. Moreover, the objectives of this study were explained in full detail prior to the interviews in that the research findings would feature organizations working to prevent SGBV, as well as strengthen understanding of the mandates of these organizations.

SGBV Primary Prevention Model for NSAGs 

LEVEL RISK FACTORS

 

 

 

 

 

INDIVIDUAL

 

*Biological and personal history factors of individual members of the NSAG

 

*Social norms/expectations, ideas and attitudes toward SGBV and women and girls

*History of witnessing or experiencing violence, bystander violence

*Young age

*Interruption of “regular” life (school, employment, agriculture, marriage, etc.)

*Forced recruitment into armed group

*Seeing oneself as victim

*Heavy alcohol or drug consumption

*Expectation of impunity

 

 

 

RELATIONSHIP

 

*Group structures

 

*Norms: expectations-normative or empirical and practices that regulate the standards

 

*Behavior and interactions of the NSAG and its members

 

*Sexual violence used as a tool to break the ties of individuals from their families and communities

*How males feel they “should” behave as a man (i.e. if sexual violence used as a way to increase bonds and cohesion in the group) or how they “need” to demonstrate their masculinity/identity

*Male dominance within the NSAG

*Role of female combatants in the NSAG

*Conflict and competition within the NSAG rank and file

*Presence/absence of religious/traditional authority

*Local communities’ perceptions of the NSAG (particularly if the NSAG is politically-motivated)

*Lack of or weak command structures and hierarchy

*Peer pressure connected to military socialization

*Lack of or weak code of conduct

*Organizational culture that promotes negative attitudes about women and girls (as well as issues of men having sex with men)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY

 

*Interactions between the NSAGs and the social networks in which they live

 

 

*High levels of violence in the community

*Community norms that justify violence against women (rape as a weapon of war)

*Social norms that promote negative attitudes about women and girls (as well as issues of men having sex with men)

*Discussion of violence, and sexual violence being taboo

*Vulnerability of the environment (economic stress and insecurity; lack of available resources; social marginalization)

*Natural resource exploitation dimension to the conflict (mining, forestry, agriculture)

*Lack of access to media and information about sexual violence and gender (not informed about sexual violence and perpetrators being brought to justice)

*Lack of informal or formal sanctions within the NSAG for violence against women

*Mutual reliance by local communities/NSAGs for security, food, labor, etc.

*Ability to hold dialogue with and maintain a relationship with a NSAG

 

 

 

 

SOCIETAL

 

*Overall structures in the social order

 

 

*High levels of general violence in society

*Breakdown of society due to violence, leading to the absence of protection for women and girls

*General breakdown in law and order increasing all forms of violence

*Lack of or weak criminal sanctions for perpetrators

*Lack of understanding or application of traditional/customary laws

*Lack of active presence of peacekeeping troops (poorly trained/unclear mandate)

*Dissatisfaction or failure of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs

*Lack of implementation and reinforcement of international laws and standards

 

 

 Organizations Engaging NSAGs in SGBV Prevention Efforts

 International Committee of the Red Cross

As a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization, the ICRC works to address both the causes and effects of sexual violence through the provision of health care, assistance, protection, awareness raising, and prevention.[40] Working with local communities, the ICRC works to raise awareness, identify risk factors, and develop protection strategies against sexual violence.[41] In order to identify those in most need of protection, the ICRC networks extensively, speaking to all sides of a conflict such as FARDC or NSAG combatants, community leaders, local NGOs, and health and humanitarian staff in order to obtain access to civilian populations in need of assistance. It works to address IHL concerns at all levels within an NSAG and its political branch.[42]

One specific program in the DRC has been the provision of listening houses, which operate mainly for the purpose of providing SGBV victims counseling support. In 2012, the ICRC had directed 40 listening houses run by local communities.[43] The houses also seek to raise awareness of the consequences of sexual violence, informing communities about health facilities and the importance of seeking urgent medical care within 72 hours after rape occurs. The ICRC promotes this program through workshops and radiobroadcasting in order to reach as many people as possible, including those most isolated and with limited health care accessibility.[44] While this program focuses on reaching SGBV victims in order provide services, the approach of this program could potentially have an indirect level of influence on NSAGs, since the program is promoted over the radio, which NSAGs have access to. There are limited data and studies on this topic, but the ICRC could determine if radiobroadcasting messages for listening houses reach NSAGs through program monitoring and evaluation schemes.

Regarding direct engagement with NSAGs, the ICRC works to voice the suffering of SGBV victims with the broader community, including the Congolese armed forces and NSAGs involved. Through hosting seminars and workshops with these groups, the ICRC focuses on conveying the physical and psychological trauma victims face, including the risk of pregnancy, HIV contraction, and potential rejection of victims by their families. In one program, the ICRC implemented a sexual violence awareness-raising initiative using paintings, where the targets of the program were not specifically NSAGs but communities in general.[45]

Considering prevention efforts, in response to humanitarian needs, the ICRC must balance reactive responses and proactive approaches. A needs assessment reactively informs a thematic approach to focus efforts on the most serious needs.[46] Prevention efforts relate closely to protection efforts to reduce humanitarian needs in the future. Guilhem Ravier, Head of Unit for the Protection of the Civilian Population in the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division at the ICRC, adds that engagement with NSAGs is a crucial, yet difficult process, as some NSAGs use terror tactics against civilian populations.[47] Under such circumstances and in establishing a relationship with this type of actor, the ICRC has to consider “incentives versus disincentives that influence attitudes and behaviors of a NSAG,” as miscalculated efforts could threaten civilians.[48] While collecting information for humanitarian access and protection, the ICRC has to constantly remain transparent in its actions and justify its impartial mandate in order to maintain access to protected person under IHL. One risk the ICRC faces when studying the military objectives of NSAGs during the dialogue process is that an NSAG may perceive the interest in military objectives as biased. [49] Despite the challenges engaging with NSAGs, however, the ICRC is generally the first humanitarian organization to have established ongoing dialogue with NSAGs.

Geneva Call

In working with NSAGs, the ICRC must immediately discuss protection issues the negotiation of access to populations in need of assistance. Geneva Call, on the other hand, does not provide assistance to populations in need under IHL, but rather strictly engages in dialogue with NSAGs in hopes that NSAGs will put forth the support and implementation of Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitments promoting IHL compliance. Geneva Call conducts mapping assessments, a type of program design, of NSAGs to understand the networks and command structures of NSAGs before engaging in dialogue with NSAGs. In contrast, the ICRC works to progressively build structures and policies promoting respect for and compliance with IHL. Since the military, social, and political dynamics NSAGs change over time, it is difficult to study the motives of NSAGs. The ICRC, however, studies the internal group features of NSAGs and the external influences on them. Categories include objective, interest, command and control procedures, control over territory, and relationship with communities. It is also important to consider the organizational capacity of NSAGs and to identify the leaders in the group, as well as those who externally influence the group like community leaders. Another area of consideration is how the state perceives the NSAG.[50] Under the SGBV Prevention Framework from the UNICEF/OCHA study, the ICRC has influence over the behavior of NSAGs mainly at the relationship, community, and societal level.

Proclaiming itself as a neutral and impartial NGO, Geneva Call’s engagement tools with NSAGs include dialogue, advocacy, and training. Recognizing that NSAGs cannot become parties to international treaties and norm-making processes, Geneva Call created a mechanism, known as the Deed of Commitment, which allows signatory NSAGs to undertake accountability procedures as dictated by international standards. Geneva Call developed a Deed of Commitment for the Prohibition of Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict and towards the Elimination of Gender Discrimination in 2012, allowing NSAGs to formally express their agreement to abide by humanitarian norms and hold themselves accountable for respecting IHL.[51] In signing this deed, NSAGs agree to the following: prohibit all forms of sexual violence, prevent and sanction sexual violence acts, provide victims with access to assistance, ensure confidentiality and protection of victims of sexual violence, eliminate discriminatory policies and practices against women or men, and ensure greater participation of women in decision-making processes. Signatory NSAGs must agree to take necessary measures to enforce the commitment and to cooperate in Geneva Call’s verification of their compliance. The organization, however, supports and monitors the implementation of the signed Deed of Commitment—for instance, through engaging community-based organizations to build their capacities to engage with NSAGs and assist in monitoring their commitments. In the DRC, civil society is active and has strong links with armed groups. Increasing dialogue with these actors is crucial to understanding the penal codes, policies, and codes of conduct of ANSAs.[52] Since the launch of the Deed of Commitment for the Prohibition of Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict and towards the Elimination of Gender Discrimination, 12 NSAGs from different countries have signed this commitment, while over 20 NSAGs have been engaged in dialogue with Geneva Call on this commitment.[53]

Following a mapping assessment of NSAGs in North and South Kivu in 2012, Geneva Call began preparations for engagement with NSAGs focused on the prevention of sexual violence and child protection issues under IHL.[54] In the DRC, Geneva Call has found it is easy to reach armed groups because the government is not able to protect communities, due to the weak capacity of the FARDC. Most armed groups have no military education and acknowledge the need for international humanitarian law training focusing on the protection of civilians and the prevention of SGBV.[55] Geneva Call’s strategy of engagement with ANSAs in the DRC focuses on general international humanitarian law training. Training and advocacy activities have been targeted for influencing the leadership of NSAGs and local communities.[56] For instance, in July 2014, elderly community members from Goma, known as the Baraza, community-based and civil society organizations, and selected provincial Members of Parliament were brought together to engage in dialogue and to learn about IHL norms, particularly in regards to sexual violence in armed conflict and the protection of children. As a result of the meeting, which had aimed to identify local capacities to address protection issues, the Congolese parties involved offered support for Geneva Call’s engagement with NSAGs to protect civilians. In focusing on the protection of civilians against SGBV, the organization takes an indirect approach first by introducing other IHL norms, such as the prevention of attacks on schools. This approach works towards gaining the confidence of ANSAs, rather than taking a ‘naming and shaming’ approach, as in writing a human rights report documenting human rights abuses. Since communities maintain complex family and ethnic relationships with many of the NSAGs active in the DRC, this provides an opportunity for Geneva Call to reach combatants and potentially influence the behavior of NSAGs in sensitization to IHL. Moreover, the combatant-civilian relationship is very complex. While Geneva Call’s prevention efforts in the DRC launched only recently, the organization has the potential to sustain a relationship with NSAGs in the region through the support of civilian communities. Geneva Call is in the process of piloting program activities from its newly established office in Goma.[57] As of 2015, the organization has engaged with four armed groups and plans to engage an addition of two armed groups per year.[58], [59] Under the SGBV Prevention Framework from the UNICEF/OCHA study, Geneva Call’s most powerful level of influence over the behavior of NSAGs are at the relationship and community level, gearing IHL training towards the groups structures and norms of NSAGs and engaging community-based organizations and civil society groups in holding NSAGs accountable to IHL standards.

 Search for Common Ground

Understanding that “conflict and differences are inevitable but violence is not,” Search for Common Ground (SFCG), is an international NGO which partners with all parties of conflict, working at all levels of society, to build peace from the grassroots to the government level.[60] SFCG has impartiality in relation to engagement with all actors, or all sides of a conflict. Gearing one of its programs towards a specific armed group, for instance, could compromise its impartiality, as the community could perceive this as bias in a local context. Across its programs, SFCG works to increase trust between communities, organizing joint community activities ranging from waste-cleanup to football matches to create added value for these communities. These activities also work to increase accountability between local actors.

SFCG’s programs are developed based on the existing socio-cultural context and local needs. One radio programming initiative focused on SGBV is known as ‘Kesho Ni Siku Mpya’ in Swahili, or ‘tomorrow is a new day.’ The program is a soap opera, or radio drama, which features characters as they subtlety deal with sensitive issues like SGBV. Soldiers and police can then relate to these characters and learn from their actions without having to face ‘finger pointing.’[61]

Recognizing the need to reduce and eliminate the occurrence of sexual violence, the conflict mediation organization launched a program with the Congolese army and police in 2006 to enforce protection of civilians in regards to SGBV. Hosting mobile cinema screenings to communicate the need to prevent SGBV, the organizations has reached nearly 1 million Congolese soldiers since.[62]  Through its SGBV program with the FARDC and the police, SFCG raises awareness of SGBV and trains soldiers using tools like participatory theatre to initiate discussion of SGBV with each battalion, highlighting the consequences of SGBV. SFCG trains the head of battalions in hopes that they will facilitate discussion and that this will consequently, have a ‘multiplier effect’ within the FARDC. The organization also works with the battalions to create Civilian Protection Committees that establish a record of human rights violations committed by groups. It is important to distinguish the purpose of these records from say, that of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, which use an advocacy-centered ‘naming and shaming’ approach to document human rights abuses. The purpose of SFCG’s human rights records with the FARDC is grounded in community-level accountability, for soldiers to hold one another accountable and for soldiers to take ownership for their actions. SFCG’s human rights records, then, are maintained for the internal benefit of the organization’s beneficiaries and not shared with advocacy-based human rights organizations.

While SFCG works with the Congolese army to prevent SGBV, it promotes its activities through a community-driven approach, understanding that SGBV is an act perpetrated by both Congolese army forces, NSAG combatants, and civilians. “Breaking the silence,” one of SFCG’s mobile cinemas focused on SGBV, works towards reducing the stigma surrounding SGBV. “The Real Man,” a short film series, exposes different attitudes of men in the DRC fit to their local context to promote healthy gender relations. Challenging unhealthy gender relations, another short soap opera series, “The Team,” features female football players.[63] SFCG holds mobile cinema showings in communities based on certain times to try to get a maximum number of community members to attend. The showings are then followed by a community-focused discussion in the village. The organization also brings targeted groups together, like young males, or customary leaders, to facilitate more in-depth discussion. Another one of SFCG’s programs facilitates dialogue within the adolescent community about gender relations, which in one aspect, feeds into the preventive efforts against SGBV. In dealing with the role of men in society, SFCG has learned that blaming men in an accusatory manner was hampering their ability to constructively engage in the process of preventing SGBV. The blame and guilt tends to prevent them from realizing that they are also part of the solution. On the other hand, continuing to depict women as victims, even if it is helpful for them to know how to act after a rape or sexual or gender based aggression, is not constructive in terms of equipping them with skills to prevent new aggressions and to positively impact their society in preventing SGBV.[64] SFCG works at all four levels included in the SGBV Prevention Framework in the UNICEF/OCHA study in challenging underlying gender norms that influence individual behavior and group relations promoting SGBV. Beyond SGBV prevention efforts, Gabrielle Solanet, Regional Project Coordinator for the Great Lakes at Search for Common Ground in Brussels, notes that SFCG promotes good governance within the extractive industry in Katanga, for instance, working to increase dialogue between the private sector, local government, and communities to ensure re-distribution of benefits from the private sector to communities.[65] While not directly addressing SGBV, these measures may address some of the underlying risk factors attributed to SGBV, for instance, land conflict and forced displacement categorized at the relationship and societal level under the SGBV Prevention Framework.

Conclusion

This paper highlights the SGBV prevention efforts of the ICRC, Geneva Call, and Search for Common Ground engaging with NSAGs in North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga, and the Ituri District of Eastern Congo. Its findings reveal that these organizations have some degree of influence over the behavior of NSAGs, directly and/or indirectly. While these organizations fulfill different mandates, each values a community-oriented response to towards reducing and preventing SGBV. The focus of this paper was on a theoretical understanding of the SGBV prevention efforts of these organizations, as opposed to a comparative monitoring and evaluation approach on these efforts. Programs such as Geneva Call’s, for instance, are in an infancy or development phase.

Despite the numerous international agreements championed to fight impunity for SGBV crimes, little progress has been made in bringing perpetrators to justice because the judicial system across the country remains weak. At the same time, community level accountability measures arising from the ground-up have yet to fulfill their potential. Indeed, the findings of this study reveal that SGBV prevention efforts largely depend on communities for holding their own members accountable and for measuring NSAGs’ compliance with IHL. As a result, communities serve as an important medium for international organizations to leverage in order to engage in dialogue, advocacy, and IHL training with NSAGs in Eastern Congo to reduce and prevent SGBV.

 

Mackenzie Kennedy (’16) is a senior at Colby College.

 


 

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Endnotes

[1] United Nations Security Council, “Conflict Related Sexual Violence: Report of the Secretary-General,” S/2014/181, March 13, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, “DRC: Military Pledge Marks Milestone on Road to Ending Conflict-Related Sexual Violence,” 2015, <http://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/press-release/drc-military-pledge-marks-milestone-on-road-to-ending-conflict-related-sexual-violence/>.

[4] United Nations Population Fund, “Secretary-General Calls Attention to Scourge of Sexual Violence in DRC, ” March 1, 2009, <Http://www.unfpa.org/public/News/pid/2181>.

[5] “At Least 2 Women Each Hour Fall Victim to Sexual Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, Says UNFPA,” Relief Web, June 5, 2014, <http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/least-2-women-each-hour-fall-victim-sexual-violence-democratic>.

[6] Kelly, Jocelyn, “Rape in War: Motives of Militia in the DRC.” United States Institute of Peace, (2010), <http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR243Kelly.pdf>.

[7] Johnson K, Scott J, Rughita B, et al, “Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” JAMA 304(5) (2010): 553. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1086.

[8] Women, children, and civilians are, however, most at risk of becoming victim to SGBV.

[9] Human Rights Watch, “The War within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and

Girls in Eastern Congo,” (Washington DC, 2002). <http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/drc/Congo0602.pdf>.

[10] Autesserre, Séverine, “Dangerous Tales: Dominant Narratives on the Congo and their Unintended Consequences,” 11.

[11] Baaz, Maria Eriksson and Maria Stern, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War?: Perceptions, Prescriptions, and Problems in the Congo and Beyond, Zed Books, (2013), 1719.

[12] Elbert, Thomas et. al., “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Insights from Former Combatants”: 9.

[13] Autesserre, Séverine, “Dangerous Tales: Dominant Narratives on the Congo and their Unintended Consequences”: 16.

[14] Système Intégré des Nations Unies, ‘Stratégie Internationale de Soutien à la Sécurité et à la Stabilité de l’est de la RDC – Cadre programmatique intégré 2009–2010,’ (United Nations, Goma, 2010): 46. <http://monusco.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=aswp10YOUmI%3D&tabid=10835&mid=14656&language=en-US>.

[15] Elbert, Thomas et. al., “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Insights from Former Combatants”: 9.

[16] “Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practices,” UN, UNIFEM, & UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, United Nations (June 2010): 12.

[17] Elbert, Thomas et. al., “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Insights from Former Combatants”: 9.

[18] Douma, Nynke and Dorothea J. Hilhorst “Fond de Commerce? Sexual Violence Assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo”: 24.

[19] Kelly, Jocelyn, “Rape in War: Motives of Militia in the DRC”: 1.

[20] It is assumed that this figure underestimates the number of actual victims because of the stigma attached to reporting sexual violence toward men in a context highly shaped by perceptions of masculinity and being a fighter.

[21] Elbert, Thomas et. al., “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo : Insights from Former Combatants”: 34.

[22] Ibid: 9.

[23] It is uncertain how accurately these reports capture SGBV committed in 2013.

[24] “DR Congo: UN Welcomes ‘Milestone’ Declaration Aimed at Combating Rape,” UN News Centre, (31 March 2015), <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50469#.VUZ2-dpVikp>.

[25] Krug E., Dahlberg, L., Mercy, J.A., Zwi, A.B., Lozano, R., World Report on Violence and Health, Geneva, Switzerland: The World Health Organization, (2002): 12. <http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2002/9241545615.pdf>.

[26] Lafrenière, Julie, “Strengthening Prevention of Conflict Related Sexual Violence with Non-State Armed Groups,” Multi-Donor Trust Fund for UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, (2011): 5. <http://www.stoprapenow.org/uploads/advocacyresources/1352897743.pdf>.

[27] Krug E., Dahlberg, L., Mercy, J.A., Zwi, A.B., Lozano, R., World Report on Violence and Health: 12.

[28] Lafrenière, Julie, “Strengthening Prevention of Conflict Related Sexual Violence with Non-State Armed Groups”: 16.

[29] Some applications include child abuse, intimate partner violence, and elderly abuse.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Contact and relationship-building between “influencer” and NSAG.

[32] Ward, Jeanne and Mendy Marsh, “Strengthening Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) with Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs),” UNICEF/OCHA, (2011). <http://www.svri.org/forum2011/StrengtheningPrevention.pdf>.

[33] “Strengthening Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence with Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs),” Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office, Project Factsheet, UNDP, (2011).

<http://mptf.undp.org/factsheet/project/00073079>.

[34] Krug E., Dahlberg, L., Mercy, J.A., Zwi, A.B., Lozano, R., World Report on Violence and Health: 12.

[35] Lafrenière, Julie, “Strengthening Prevention of Conflict Related Sexual Violence with Non-State Armed Groups”: 3.

Julie Lafrenière has worked as a Gender-Based Violence consultant for UNICEF, UNFPA, and UN Women and developed the theoretical framework for research analysis.

[36] Lafrenière, Julie, “Strengthening Prevention of Conflict Related Sexual Violence with Non-State Armed Groups”: 9.

[37] Ibid: 9.

[38] Ibid: 10.

[39] Ibid: 11.

[40] Cotton, Sarah and Charlotte Nicol, “The ICRC’s Response to Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence,” Humanitarian Exchange Magazine (6), (2014), <http://www.odihpn.org/humanitarian-exchange-magazine/issue-60/the-icrcs-response-to-sexual-violence-in-armed-conflict-and-other-situations-of-violence>.

[41]  “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Questions and Answers,” ICRC, (2013),

<https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/faq/sexual-violence-questions-and-answers.html>.

[42] Anonymous, Adviser in Dialogue with Armed Non State Actors, ICRC, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, May 1, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[43] Anonymous, Geneva Call, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, April 9, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[44] Cotton, Sarah and Charlotte Nicol, “The ICRC’s Response to Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence.”

[45] Anonymous, Adviser in Dialogue with Armed Non State Actors, ICRC, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, May 1, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Guilhem Ravier, Head of Unit, Protection of the Civilian Population, Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division, ICRC, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, May 1, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Anonymous, Adviser in Dialogue with Armed Non State Actors, ICRC, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, May 1, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Geneva Call, “Deed of Commitment,” <http://www.genevacall.org/how-we-work/deed-of-commitment/>.

[52] Anonymous, Geneva Call, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, April 9, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[53] Geneva Call, “Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

<http://www.genevacall.org/country-page/democratic-republic-congo/>.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Anonymous, Geneva Call, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, April 9, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[56] Geneva Call, “Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

[57] Geneva Call, “DRC: Geneva Call Start Discussion with Key Provincial Stakeholders on Civilian Protection,” July 15, 2014, <http://www.genevacall.org/drc-geneva-call-starts-discussions-key-provincial-stakeholders-civilian-protection/>.

[58] Anonymous, Geneva Call, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, April 9, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland.

[59] Geneva Call, “Deed of Commitment.”

[60] Ibid.

[61] Search for Common Ground Progress Report, (2012): 11, <http://issuu.com/sfcg/docs/sfcg>.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Gabrielle Solanet, Regional Project Coordinator for the Great Lakes, Search for Common Ground, interviewed by Mackenzie Kennedy, April 28, 2015, Brussels, Belgium.

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