The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has promised to “use all legal means at its disposal to punish all those who committed sexual abuse and exploitation against women during the Ebola epidemic” in the country.
In an October 9, 2020, declaration just made public, the country’s ministers of Gender, Beatrice Lomeya, Human Rights, Andre Lite, and Health, Eteni Longondo, said they would use all the legislation in force to ensure the culprits were punished.
Gender Minister Lomeya said the basic legal instruments in force, including the National Strategy on the Fight Against Violence Based on Gender, would be a guide for the government as it carried out the investigations.
“The government of the DR Congo remains engaged concerning the question of sexual violence against women and all the precise cases which took place in the East of the country during the fight against the Ebola virus.
“We are involved, we are going to pursue the investigations until all the light is focused on the dossier. Never will we continue to tolerate sexual violence. Women are persons with inalienable rights,” the minister said.
She added that whether the perpetrators of the alleged sexual violence were nationals or foreigners, “we will use all the legal means to ensure that sanctions are meted out and that the victims receive justice.”
The Health Minister, Longondo, also spoke of the implication of Congolese health personnel (who were engaged in the ripost against Ebola) in the alleged acts.
“Apart from the international civil servants who were most implicated in the acts of sexual exploitation, it would appear there were compatriots who were also involved which is why the Congolese government would act accordingly, ” the minister declared.
The Minister of Human Rights, Lite, was of the opinion that the actors in these acts must render an account before the law.
“Our country has never sentenced people whenever there was this kind of accusations. As concerns this dossier, we are going to make available the means in order to arrive at the expected conclusions, i.e. to make sure the guilty pay for their actions, ” he said.
The report of an investigation carried out by the non-governmental organisation, The New Humanitarian, and Thomas Reuters Foundation, revealed that more than 50 cases of exploitation and sexual abuse were found to have been committed by employees of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and certain NGOs during the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Among other organisations, which workers were reported to have carried out sexual aggression against women in the DR Congo, are UNICEF, Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontieres, World Vision and Alliance for International Medical Action.
A majority of the alleged women victims interviewed said male workers with the organisations made advances to them and some forced them to have sexual relations with them in exchange for employment, or terminated their employment when they refused to have sex with them.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organisation, promised that he would collaborate with the director-general of WHO to ensure that those involved in the alleged crime faced the consequences.
Canada, through its Ambassador, Nicolas Simard, also recommended that investigations be carried out into the matter.
On its part, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the DR Congo called on victims of sexual abuse to report their cases by email through [email protected] or contact telephone number +243814091572.
The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organisation, Kelly Craft, also on October 6, 2020 expressed the concerns of her country in connection with the allegations.