News / Africa

Great Lakes Conference Tackles Sexual, Gender-Based Violence

Nighti Aparo stands in her village in northern Uganda. Aparo was kidnapped, raped at gunpoint and tortured by the Lords Resistance Army. (OXFAM handout, file photo)
Nighti Aparo stands in her village in northern Uganda. Aparo was kidnapped, raped at gunpoint and tortured by the Lords Resistance Army. (OXFAM handout, file photo)

Member states of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region wrapped up a five-day summit on sexual and gender-based violence on Friday, calling for collective action in tackling an issue that has touched every country in the region.

The term that encompasses rape, molestation, forced prostitution, domestic violence and certain traditional practices - is an issue that takes on particular urgency in conflict zones. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an estimated 12 percent of the country’s women have been raped at least once, leading some commentators to call it the “worst place on Earth to be a woman.”

But Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and Central African Republic are also emerging from their own conflicts, and many other countries in the region are struggling to manage the lingering effects of past violence.

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region met in Uganda's capital this week to discuss ways to combat sexual and gender-based violence in central and east Africa. The conference was established in 2006 to encourage peace and stability in an area historically plagued by armed conflicts, many of which have taken on a regional dimension. South Sudan was admitted as the newest member of the conference on Friday.

Speaking at the summit, U.S. Special Advisor to the Great Lakes Region Barrie Walkley announced that the United States will soon be launching its own "National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security."

“Too often, sexual and gender-based violence is explained away as a women’s problem, a problem for women. It is not. It needs to be a matter of grave and serious concern to men, as well as to women, for it affects all elements of society,” Walkley said.

Margot Wallstrom, the United Nations special representative of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, points out that in most Great Lakes conflicts, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been widely used as weapons of war. She says these acts were not spontaneous, but deliberate and premeditated.

“For example, in the eastern DRC, we saw that armed groups were moving from one village to another, and this was the one weapon that they used," Wallstrom said. "These were mass rapes. More than 300 people were raped, including men as well. There were no killings, but this was used as a very effective tool of instilling fear and terror, and demonstrating control.”

Often the worst sexual atrocities in conflict zones are committed by the army, security forces and peacekeepers themselves, as has been in the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in northern Uganda. Several of the leaders at the summit emphasized the importance of disciplining their armed forces, though Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete confessed that this is a difficult issue to address.

“Of course, during these situations of conflict, normally it’s the armed forces and the police who are the perpetrators," the president said. "Well, that becomes a bit difficult because you’ve got to use the police to arrest these guys.”

Yet Lillian Mpabulungi of CARE International says that gender-based violence and neglect does not usually end with peace agreements. Some of the most pervasive problems, she says, occur in post-conflict situations like northern Uganda, where women and girls were abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army to fight alongside men.

“The male ex-combatants are actually catered for. When it comes to the female ex-combatants, they are not taken as ex-combatants. They are taken just as girls and women. So when they return, it’s very important for our governments to look into that, so that they benefit from the recovery programs that we have. Medical support, psychosocial support, looking at rehabilitation, looking at income-generating services - this is what the survivors are actually looking for,” she said.

She thinks that the summit this week can make a difference and that African leaders are beginning to take sexual gender-based violence more seriously.

“It’s changing. There’s a lot of challenging of our male counterparts, and acceptance that this is happening. It’s no longer a women’s issue. People actually realize that it’s not good for development, it’s not good for economic, for social, for spiritual development of our country,” Mpabulungi said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was handed the two-year chairmanship of the conference on Thursday, taking over from Zambian President Michael Sata. Museveni vowed to use his position to focus on improving the region’s infrastructure.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs