The official spearheading United Nations efforts to combat the scourge of sexual violence during war today welcomed the decision of authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to prosecute several high-ranking military officers accused of rape.
DRC authorities have initiated judicial proceedings against three officers – General Jerôme Kakwavu, Lieutenant Colonel Engagela (aka Colonel 106) and Colonel Safari – and are considering trials in absentia for two other senior officers, according to a statement issued by Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
General Kakwavu, who is currently in detention in the capital, Kinshasa, is charged with having raped two females – one of whom was aged just 13 – about seven years ago. Before his integration into the military, known as the FARDC, he led a Congolese armed group known as UDC/FAPC.
The case marks the first time that a general in the FARDC is to be prosecuted by a military tribunal for rape.
"These actions send a powerful signal that no military or political leader is above the law, and no woman is below it," Ms. Wallström said.
"In addition to prosecution, there is a need for reparation of victims. It is vital that survivors receive assistance, in particular medical interventions. The aim is not only to bring the perpetrators of sexual violence to justice, but also to ensure that victims obtain justice and care."
The Special Representative said it was now crucial that the authorities apprehend as soon as possible the two other officers, Major Pitchen and Colonel Mosala, and prosecute them as well.
"We continue to monitor this and other incidents of alleged sexual violence in conflict, wherever they occur," she added.
Ms. Wallström has spoken out repeatedly about the widespread sexual violence taking place in the DRC, especially in the vast country's far east, where conflict still rages between the FARDC and a range of militias and other armed groups.