It was on 23/10/2013 during the closure’s speech of National Consultations (Concertations Nationales), that President Joseph Kabila Kabange announced a forthcoming nomination of his special representative/advisor in charge of eradicating sexual violence and child forced enrolment into armed groups. On one hand, the nomination intends to ensure the president that these war crimes and crimes against humanity are halted. On the other hand, the nomination of a special representative would help avoiding any “instrumentalization” of human sufferings for covert purposes.
In his own terms, the president stated in french that « Afin de m’en assurer personnellement, et d’éviter la tendance à l’instrumentalisation de ces souffrances humaines à des fins inavouées, je vais, très prochainement, nommer un Représentant personnel du Chef de l’Etat chargé de promouvoir la lutte contre les violences sexuelles et le recrutement des enfants, et de servir d’interface avec la communauté internationale en ce domaine ». The roughly 9 month old statement revealed likely that the president was concerned with these crimes whose responsible are not only rebels groups but also members of the national army. Specifically, the president seemed expressing his concern over how some interventions may benefit to hidden agenda while using victims as carpet.
As mater of honoring his promises, President Joseph Kabila has appointed on 08/07/2014 Ms Jeannine Mabunda Lioko as his special representative to tackle sexual violence and, implicitly, child recruitment as well. This is a crucial appointment and one of the National Consultations resolutions that many observers including myself were eager to see being accomplished.
Though most of national consultations’ resolutions are slowing to come into effect, it is possible to think that the appointment of the special representative constituted a priority, especially for the Democratic Republic of Congo Eastern part. However, political game might have pushed the nomination; and if so, that motivation would be ascertained in a near future based on Mabunda’s achievements.
The article intends to discuss some of the challenges ahead of Mabunda’s appointment as the blog feels mostly disturbed by these crimes largely affecting our mothers, sisters as well as children. The purpose of the article is to remind the appointee as the blog expects that the appointment doesn’t need to fall into political manoeuvers. Before discussing the challenges, the reader might be interested in snapshotting on Mabunda Lioko.
Jeannine Mabunda Lioko is a woman political figure in DRC. Member of the current national assembly (parliament); she has alsoworked as minister in charge of State Assets (portfolios) since 5 February 2007 till 6 December 2012.
With a bachelor’s degree (Licence) in Commercial Law from Leuven Catholic University; during her studies, she got specialized in Commercial Sciences from Brussels School of Management where she has obtained a postgraduate diploma. From primary school to postgraduate level, Mabunda has studied in Belgium because one her parents had had a scholarship to pursue his studies in the later country. From her own statement, Mabunda has had the only privilege to enroll into nursery school in Zaire before moving to Belgium.
She started her career in 1988. Since then, she likely evolved with the banking system and organizations from Citibank to DRC Central Bank (Banque Centrale du Congo) as an advisor to the Bank’s governor. In 2002, she was appointed as managing director to DRC Fonds de Promotion de l’Industrie (PFI).
Jeannine Mabunda Lioko is a proud Mungala, slightly interested in learning other national languages. She is native of Yamisiko locality, Bumba territoire, Eqateur province where her two parents are both originated. She speaks Lingala, French, English and Dutch.
Mabunda is a committed political figure, advocating for sexual violence and women victimization, within an arena that seems unlikely favoring women. As portfolios minister for roughly 6 years, she has led efforts aiming at restructuring public enterprises, basically within privatization processes. His promotion to top public managerial positions and involvement into public sphere might have raised her detractors. There comes a shadow of being branded as controversial figure to the extent of describing her as “protégé” of late Katumba Mwanke, the stronger Kabila’s special advisor who passed away in plane crash accident on 12 February 2012.
A political figure, member of DRC the ruling party (PPRD), some detractors have been accusing her of illegal accumulation of wealth during her public career. These accusations are mostly related to Mabunda’s role into privatizing state’s companies while playing her personal interests. The accusations of illegal accumulation seem even to point finger on tax havens somewhere in Europe. Strikingly, the reader won’t believe that Mabunda may be suspected on not being from Equateur Province due to her “Elongi naye”; that’s physical features. In some cases, physical characteristics as well as origins in DRC are commonly used as an indication to disgrace opponents.
It remains hard for the blogger to verify these accusations above; even though illegal accumulation of wealth in DRC is a common practice especially for those accessing public assets management. In a nutshell, Mabunda is an experienced political figure though her experience wouldn’t automatically guarantee that her mission to advice the president will bear fruits and solve immediately the priority matter of sexual violence.
Challenges Ahead of Mabunda
Recent statistics and extrapolation of sexual violence in DRC seem to converge on its severity. The statistics tend to approximate that 48 cases of sexual violence are likely to occur on hourly basis. These abuses includes rape, domestic related sexual violence etc. The extrapolation looks as the right means to get statistics as reporting these violence remain in itself another case of being unsecured; within an unstructured data collection framework. For this reason, DRC has been dubbed as “World Capital Rape”. Therefore, tackling sexual violence and child forced enrollment wouldn’t be a political game as it used to be in different appointment in my country.
It is a challenging task requiring wisdom and commitment. Unlikely exhaustive, the article has considered few challenges that the appointee would probably be facing ahead of her course.
Foremost, the president’s special representative would be facing political bias challenge when advising her boss. My expectations on the probable appointee to this position were that s/he would have to be an independent person, an activist who has been closely working with the reality on the ground. The special advisor would be a person not interested in political appointment to the extent s/he may put at stake this position by disagreeing with the president if needed.
In this specific case, the criterion of independent-minded person is needed as sexual violence in DRC is a complex issue involving different armed groups as well as the army. For this reason, an advisor to the president requires to point all these features out; outside of fear of being “blacklisted” or rejected within the political arena. Her/ his own concern would be to cure the wound and posing a foundation to principles guiding the future in terms of dealing with sexual violence. It remains possible that Mabunda’s background can fulfill this requirement as societies in which someone has evolved can enhance her independence.
Generally, the reader would agree with the article that sexual violence in DRC and child forced recruitment are significantly correlated with the state of war, armed conflicts and inter-community confrontation. The latter aspects are both consequences of State’s governance loopholes as well as recent regional power interferences. Therefore, most of these aspects are worth to be taken into account when undertaking Mabunda’s responsibilities. The reader would remind that national consultations might have reconstructed them; though they were obviously present since long ago. Having disregarded these loopholes calls the willingness of rulers into question. Thus, tackling sexual violence crimes by establishing the ground to eradicate it looks intertwined with these bunch of DRC governance hindrances. The existence of unmanageable armed groups, especially foreigners is likely to complicating her mission.
Moreover, beyond complexity around sexual violence to armed conflicts in DRC, Mabunda would possibly be challenged by coordinating different interventions on the ground. As part of the concern from Kabila’s speech, based on the article interpretation, the president would be willing to see interventions on the ground being coordinated; in order to avoiding that they won’t benefit for hidden agenda. The fear, if the speech is well captured, is understandable as severity of sexual violence wouldn’t guarantee the transparency of these different interventions in the area of fighting sexual violence. Hence, the special representative has to ensure that interventions targeting sexual violence and child recruitment are strongly coordinated and won’t fall into greedy hands who never mind of the sufferings of others. However, country largeness; security problems; soft and patchy administrative entities, specifically local ones… are constraints that would limit Mabunda’s efforts of coordinating different partners in the domain.
In the same vein, Mabunda may need to work also on establishing confident and reliable channels from local entities, local partners, and activists in the area of sexual violence, opinion leaders and local organizations to ensure that abuses are timely reported and dealt with. But mostly, victims’ views as well as their confidence on these channels are strictly important. The confidence from victims is required as experience has shown that victims have feared of being victimized again when reporting her suffering. Additionally, as special advisor to the president, an independent justice and victims’ rehabilitation would constitute a backbone of Mabunda’s mission. The reason is, though widely committed, these violence have remained unpunished and opening up breaches to impunity. Consequently, she needs to ensure that her advice can bear these fruits by trying impartially all suspects.
Are you concerned with sexual violence and child forced recruitment in DRC? I guess your reply is YES. From your viewpoints, do you think Mabunda, as special advisor to the President Kabila has an easy task? If not, what other challenges ahead of her are?
Ntanyoma R. Delphin
Twitter account @delphino12