By Watuwa Wambiti
A group of women from North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have demanded to be involved in the on-going peace talks and negotiations in Uganda between the M23 rebels and the DRC government.
The talks are taking place under the mechanisms and guidance of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
In a statement, the women under their organisation, Congo Women Artisans of Peace, a representation of various social and civil society organisations in eastern DRC, made their demands during a press briefing in Ntinda a Kampala suburb.
Isis-Women International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE), an organisation working in conflict and post-conflict areas, organised the briefing.
“The situation in the DRC has not changed despite the on-going peace talks. There are a number of atrocities and violations committed, with communities being displaced, leading to increased suffering for women” read the statement.
“As women of the DRC we have mobilised to demand that we are given the opportunity to participate in the on-going peace talks between the DRC government and the M23 rebels in Kampala, but our demands have been rejected,” the statement adds.
According to Nana Balume, the women’s spokesperson, although there are some female faces seen in the talks, two are from Kinshasha and one on the side of the rebels.
“The women from eastern Congo, who are the real victims of this conflict, have been left out. The women from Kinshasha cannot speak on our behalf – they do not know what we are going through,” she argues, noting that for lasting peace in the region, women from the affected areas should be put at the centre of the talks.
The Artisan’s of Peace say that plans by the African Union to send a neutral force are laudable, provided that force is going to ensure an immediate ceasefire and peace.
In an earlier statement in December last year, the women observed that for lasting and sustainable peace to be realised, ICGLR and the international community should involve the 42 armed groups operating in DRC.
The women’s demand to be involved in the talks is grounded in United Nations resolution 1325 of 2000. The resolution, among other things, makes women’s participation in conflict-related talks mandatory.
The resolution observes that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict, becoming refugees and internally displaced persons.