Author: Jocelyn Kelly
Publication Date: 2010
Institution: United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Keywords: Gender; Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
This Report recognises widespread sexual violence against women in conflict is a threat to international peace and security. Instead of focussing on the victims and survivors of rape, as has largely been the case of research to date, it looks to the motivations of the perpetrators themselves to better address the issues that arise in conflict and move toward effective reconstruction. The Report presents an analysis of interviews conducted with the Mai Mai militia group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), focussing on the experiences of armed combatants with the aim of revealing potential avenues for intervention.
The Report argues policymakers and practitioners must understand the needs, experiences, and motivations of all the different populations involved in conflict environments to truly address the issues that arise and move toward effective reconstruction. Hit by two successive wars in 1996 and 1998, the eastern region of the DRC hangs in limbo between a conflict and post-conflict state. Extremely brutal forms of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) have been one of the most salient and destructive characteristics of the conflict. This Report discusses its findings of the militia members’ attitudes toward sexual violence and their varied motivations.
The Report maintains the most effective interventions to address SGBV are tailored to the motivations and decision-making structures of each armed group, which tend to be complex and sometimes contradictory. For example, some commanders explicitly support rape by treating women as a spoil of war. In the interviews, men also describe rape as a result of individual motives, such as the desire of a particular woman. However, at the same time the soldiers tended to see themselves as protectors of civilians.
The Report argues Mai Mai commanders should be held responsible for the violence perpetrated by themselves and the men under their command. The Report also identifies high levels of concern about contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections pose an opportunity to discourage combatants from engaging in sexual violence. It advises the DRC government to use the integration of Mai Mai troops into the national army as an opportunity to retrain troops, with a focus on sensitising soldiers about human rights and the need to protect civilians. It recommends trust between civilians and the military being built through regular meetings among leaders as well as effective prosecution of rape crimes. It further recommends international and humanitarian communities can provide mental health counselling to demobilised soldiers as well as employment opportunities to assist in reintegration.