Statement by Administrator Samantha Power
I am appalled by the reports of increasing numbers of women and children being subjected to sexual violence every day in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province, as documented earlier this month by Medecins Sans Frontieres. The ongoing fighting between DRC’s military and the Rwanda-backed M23 has displaced more than 1 million people since March 2022, many of whom are being forced to live in unsafe and overcrowded camps without adequate access to food, water, or medical care. In these shocking conditions, thousands of women and children are being exploited by organized sex trafficking operations – many allegedly operated by individuals connected with the Government of the DRC.
The conflict with M23 in North Kivu has worsened an already dire situation in eastern DRC, particularly in Ituri province where other armed groups, including CODECO and ADF (also known as ISIS-DRC), kill civilians indiscriminately. I echo Secretary Blinken’s deep concern for those killed, injured, displaced, and left vulnerable by violence.
It is imperative that the Government of Rwanda cease its support to M23 and withdraw its troops from the DRC. The Government of the DRC must also do more to protect its most vulnerable citizens – to provide land for new sites where displaced people can receive services and protection; to systematically enforce the government’s own laws against brothels that traffic and exploit women and girls; and to provide unhindered access for humanitarian agencies working to alleviate the suffering of millions of Congolese citizens. And other concerned governments should raise their voices and contribute resources in support of the people of the DRC.
I am grateful to our partners, who are working in perilous and taxing conditions to provide lifesaving assistance. They have my admiration for their service to those most in need in one of the world’s most dire humanitarian emergencies.