DR Congo: War crimes conviction ‘an important victory’ for justice – UN envoy

Two senior UN officials welcomed on Tuesday the war crimes conviction and life sentencing of an armed combatant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, and her counterpart on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, lauded the Cour Militaire Opérationnelle of North Kivu for the conviction and sentencing of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka – part of the Nduma Defence of Congo armed group (NDC-Sheka) – on charges that included rape, sexual slavery and the recruitment of children.

Ms. Gamba called the verdict “an important victory for those who seek justice for grave violations against children” in the DRC and elsewhere.

“It is a formidable example showing that no individual, no matter how powerful, is immune from being held accountable for those violations”, she added.

Appalling crimes
He and co-conspirators, including Séraphin Nzitonda Habimana, also known as Lionceau, of the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), were tried for mass crimes committed between 2010 and 2017.

Among the violations were attacks in 2010 against civilians in Walikale territory in which the UN Joint Human Rights Office said that at least 387 civilians suffered sexual violence. The Security Council condemned the assaults in the strongest terms and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable and prosecuted.

Thereafter, Mr. Sheka was added to the Security Council sanctions list for the DRC. Following a two-year trial that began in 2018, both defendants were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

“My mandate has pursued justice for Messrs. Sheka and Lionceau’s crimes with a coalition of national and international partners, for the sexual violence they have committed for over a decade”, explained Ms. Patten. “The verdict sends a strong signal that impunity for sexual violence in Congo will not be tolerated”.


Verdict sends ‘clear message’
Both UN envoys praised the brave victims who came forward to testify, their attorneys, and the Congolese prosecutors who pursued the case with diligence.

They highlighted the broad coalition of national and international actors who worked together to ensure that justice was done, which they maintained stands as a model for the future.

Moreover, the Special Representatives welcomed the UN’s technical support, particularly that of its Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) as well as the military justice authorities that contributed to the outcome.

“North Kivu is still subject to insecurity and sexual violence, but this verdict is a clear message to perpetrators that you will be brought to justice no matter how long it takes”, said Ms. Patten.


‘Justice will prevail’
Ms. Gamba added, that “through this verdict, once again parties to conflict are reminded that violations against children cannot be overlooked and that sooner or later justice will prevail”.

The Special Representatives also called upon the DRC Government to provide reparations and support to victims of Mr. Sheka’s crimes who still suffer long after the violations.

Africa Industrialization Day 20th November

Industrialization for Development

Industrial development is of critical importance for sustained and inclusive economic growth in African countries. Industry can enhance productivity, increase the capabilities of the workforce, and generate employment, by introducing new equipment and new techniques. Industrialization, with strong linkages to domestic economies, will help African countries achieve high growth rates, diversify their economies and reduce their exposure to external shocks. This will substantially contribute to poverty eradication through employment and wealth creation.

Within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1991-2000), the United Nations General Assembly, in 1989, proclaimed 20 November “Africa Industrialization Day” (A/RES/44/237). Since then, the United Nations System has held events on that day throughout the world to raise awareness about the importance of Africa’s industrialization and the challenges faced by the continent.

Theme 2020: “Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in the AfCFTA era”
Since 2018, the Africa Industrialization Day has been successfully commemorated with weeklong events. The Africa Union Commission will be hosting the 2020 Africa Industrialization Week celebrations (#AIW2020) on 16-20 November 2020, under the theme “Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in the AfCFTA and COVID-19 era”.

On 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, the Agreement establishing an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed, creating a single African market for goods and services and the world’s largest free trade area by number of countries. The AfCFTA is expected to become operational on 1 January 2021, backed up by 28 ratifications to date, and 54 signatures to the Agreement. However, despite these positive developments, the advent of COVID-19 early 2020 has posed the most formidable risk to the smooth phase-in of the AfCFTA, given its disruptive nature to business and commerce. Thus, given this scenario the need to build continuous political advocacy on the need to industrialise Africa cannot be overemphasized. The AIW2020, therefore, presents such an opportunity, to rally stakeholders at national, regional, continental, and global level to exchange knowledge on the continent’s structural transformation agenda.

The impact of COVID-19
Despite being the second most-populated continent in the world (1.2 billion people), Africa represented only 1.4 % of the world Manufacturing value added in the first quarter of 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved more slowly in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions, it has exerted a sizable toll on economic activity with a growth expected to fall to -3.3% in 2020, pushing the region into its first recession in 25 years. The combination of domestic lockdowns and lower external demand from the global recession will weigh heavily on the industry sector.