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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 844

Ms GAMBARO (8:50 PM) —I also rise tonight to speak to this motion on security in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I thank the member for Chisholm for putting the motion forward. I also thank the previous speakers, the member for Forde and the member for Werriwa. There is a dire humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese are very, very poor people who have suffered for a very long time and for many reasons that are beyond natural comprehension. Ever since decolonisation from the Belgian empire, the Congolese have been subject to catastrophe after catastrophe, which has resulted in suffering seen nowhere else in the world. Similarly with other conflict zones, such as Afghanistan, there is no central working government. As is the case with all countries in this situation, regional warlords and a fractured army control vast areas of land, exploit local inhabitants and trade illegally in extractive and contraband resources. Unfortunately, women and children are often the ones who suffer the most and the most heinous crimes, which are often rewarded and seldom brought to justice.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the FDLR, have moved across the porous land border in the east and are committing the same crimes that they committed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Despite the army trying to integrate some of the militant units under the peace accord in March 2009, a number of the armed groups dropped out. This resulted in hundreds if not thousands of people being killed and gang raped as each warring party accused the local populations of supporting its enemies. One of these groups that splintered was the National Congress for the Defence of the People, the CNDP. An example of this was when at least 105 civilians were killed in the western Masisi territory, where former CNDP troops conducted operations against the FDLR and their allies. Another incident was in the Walikale territory in early August. FDLR troops and a local armed group, the Mai Mai Cheka, systematically gang raped at least 303 civilians in 13 villages. The perpetrators accused the villagers of supporting the CNDP.

These people are using rape and HIV-AIDS against entire villages. They not only are destroying the population now but also are ensuring that these villages will never, ever recover into the future. In a completely separate case the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is a Ugandan rebel group, spilled into the Democratic Republic of Congo from the north, where they now continue their brutal and inhumane campaign. An example of just one of the atrocities committed by the LRA was in 2009, when the LRA combatants clubbed to death at least 645 civilians and abducted 250 others in the remote Makombo area. The LRA have also carried out operations in the Bas-Uele district, where children were deliberately targeted in widespread abductions and forced by the militant group to serve as child soldiers.

The rate of sexual violence in the DRC is one of the highest in the world. Over 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported in 2009 and over 7,500 cases in the first six months of 2010. What is really tragic is that most of the victims were under the age of 18 years. But however bleak and heart wrenching this outlook is, there is always a glimpse of hope. In 2009 the FDLR president and his deputies were arrested in Germany on a warrant by the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed by FDLR troops under their command. There were similar arrests in France.

These are very sad stories. There is no sign of improvement on the horizon for the Congolese, who have been suffering for a very long time. Nevertheless, we need to have hope. We need to have faith that there is good in people and that it will triumph over the evil that compels wicked people to commit such horrific acts. My thoughts and prayers go out to those people in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are now suffering. May they find peace.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.