African Leaders: Make Stopping Rape in Conflict a Priority at the 20th AU Summit
Addis Ababa—January 26, 2013
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is calling on the African Union to prioritize tackling conflict‐related rape as it meets during the 20th Summit.
“Sexual violence is one of the biggest barriers to building peace and security,” says Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams (USA), the co‐chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. “Until we commit to ending rape and other forms of gender‐based violence, we are not going to be able to build healthy and safe communities that contribute to economic development and empower women and girls to reach their full potential.”
A delegation of 25 Campaign members from across the continent, led by Ms. Williams, have gathered in Addis Ababa ahead of the Summit to highlight the need for African leaders to take leadership in stopping rape in conflict.
The meeting of Heads of State during the 20th African Union Summit is taking place in the Ethiopian capital from January 27‐28. Much of the Summit will focus on recent surges in violence, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the continuing border dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, and the recent war in Mali. Rape is a common feature of the conflicts in both Sudan and Mali, as well in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in Africa. Some post‐conflict countries, such as Liberia, struggle with rape as an on‐going and daily reality for women.
The Campaign is calling on the African Union to act collectively; it is also encouraging member states to take their own initiative to prevent rape, to protect their citizens, and prosecute those responsible for gender violence.
“We hear many promises from our leaders about the importance of ending violence against women. These politicians are now facing a choice—choose to act or ignore commitments,” said Pauline Kamau, Executive Director of Green Belt Movement in Kenya. “Our leaders must show leadership and prove that they have the future well‐being of Africa and African women in mind.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women are once again on the frontlines of violence as the M23 rebellion threatens the east. Numbers of women and girls attacked is spiking while the region argues over a military intervention.
Kenya is on the brink of election in March, with the population dreading that the post‐election violence from 2007‐2008, will once again surface. Often ethnically motivated, women are the first targets of the violence. Attacks have already begun ahead of the elections.
The civil war in Mali is a direct threat to women's safety and security, with women again being targeted for sexual violence. As Malian women move into neighbouring countries as refugees, they remain vulnerable to sexual assault in refugee camps.
On this historic occasion of the 20th Summit, it is time of the African Union to bring real change to the women at the grassroots level. Women's protection must be at the forefront of the agenda and the African Union must hold member states accountable for the security of their own populations.
The Campaign calls on every Head of State taking part at the AU Summit to take leadership to stop rape in conflict—within their own country, within their region, and the continent.