Good afternoon, everybody. I'm going to call this meeting to order.
We have guests with us today who will provide testimony for our study on the situation in Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our guests today are here specifically on the situation in the DRC.
We are very pleased to welcome Fredrick Mwenengabo. He is the executive director, ambassador to the United Nations of civil society organizations and a peace and human rights advocate. He is with the East and Central African Association for Indigenous Rights. Welcome.
We also have Marc Kapenda, who is a professor. Welcome, Professor Kapenda.
Anthony Njoku is going to be here as well.
I believe we're going to hear from Professor Kapenda and Mr. Mwenengabo, and then we will open it up to questions, which I know my colleagues will have lots of, and the three of you can participate.
Given that we're running a little short on time, if you can keep your remarks to about eight minutes, that would be great. Thank you.
Mr. Mwenengabo, would you begin, please?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for inviting me to appear before this honourable Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to talk about the situations in Somalia, South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I accept this opportunity with respect, honour and humility. I hope my contribution will contribute to peace building and development in DRC and in Africa as a whole.
Mr. Chair, we may agree that the situation in Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are very similar. They are all fragile states and they are characterized by weak government, institutionalized corruption, mass killings of civilians and abuse against women and girls. However, with your permission, let me focus on DRC. In the development of my opinions, you will understand the reasons why.
Before I give my witness opinion, please allow me to express gratitude to Canada for the chance to be part of this compassionate nation. I'm proud to be a Canadian. I also know that there are many new Canadians who feel like me. It is for that reason that I sit here today to build a bridge between the DRC, a country where I was born, and Canada, a country I now call home.
The DRC has suffered a lot. It has suffered from numerous wars and genocides since the time of King Leopold, who alone killed as many as 10 million of 20 million Congolese at the turn of the 20th century as he plundered and pillaged the country. In 1960, when the Congo gained independence from Belgium and Patrice Lumumba became its first ever elected prime minister, a conspiracy by the United States Central Intelligence Agency—the CIA—and Belgium led first to the sponsoring of a secessionist movement and then ultimately to his assassination, barely one year into his term.
Then we were given Mobutu Sese Seko as our president of the country. He equally plunged the country into corruption, causing the collapse of all institutions, and the DRC became what it is for now.
Mr. Chair, I know I don't have enough time, but my sitting here is really to appeal to this honourable committee. I would have loved to read all my comments, but I'm not going to read them. From time to time, when I speak about the situation in the Congo, I become very emotional. I will request your indulgence if that happens to me. Already, I can feel it.
The Congo is in very bad shape as we talk. From 1996 to 2001, the Congo lost over six million civilians. Picture it: six million. Take that number out of Canada. Think about it. These are our sisters, our mothers and our brothers. If I was one of them I wouldn't be sitting here. It's real people.
From 2001 to 2003, three million people were slaughtered. Today, on a daily basis, 3,000 people are dying. They are dying from brutality, violence, wars and related issues such as diseases, lack of infrastructure and so on.
When Mobutu became an embarrassment, we allowed Rwanda to go. We supported an invasion led by Rwanda and Uganda to go to the Congo. This is how we lost five million to six million people.
We went on. We supported the second invasion, and we formed different rebel groups. This is how we lost all of these people.
The Congo has gained a dubious recognition as the world capital of rape. The UN reports that 48 women are raped every hour, and this is only for the cases that are reported. These are our mothers, our sisters, our wives and so on.
I may stand here as someone with experience on Congo, as someone with an understanding of the issues of Congo, but equally, I sit here as a victim because I'm in that picture myself. Without going very far, I'm telling you that Congo is going to have a catastrophe that has not been seen, if there are no changes for that country.
I'm sure you'll ask your questions, but I have a few recommendations that I'll proposed to this honourable committee. These recommendations include creating a transitional government, because there will not be any proper elections. There is no institution that is legal that is going to organize those elections.
Second, I'm requesting this honourable committee to help us and to work with the Congolese to reform the justice of Congo. From that transition, we can have disarmament, demobilization and the rehabilitation of combatants. Then we can have an opportunity to promote democracy and civic education, and therefore, to organize proper elections.
Today, Kabila has refused to accommodate the international community to participate in the Congolese elections and to help us. He has wanted to remain in power—actually, he is in power today—beyond his constitutional mandate.
I'm requesting of Canada, in our own best short-term and medium-term interests, that we help Congo. I've submitted my views in writing and I've detailed what the help of Canada will bring to Congo, to a nation with such immense opportunities, which will give us a chance to realize these within the population and with its natural resources.
In conclusion, may I add that I will answer any questions you may have regarding the proposals and recommendations I have just made. I think this is in the interest of Canada.
I am asking Canada to approach the troubles in the Congo with in mind Canada's image, interest, honour and responsibilities both at home and abroad.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be part of this testimony.
I would like to make my presentation. It will be in French.
There might be some differences between what I'm saying and the summary that you have received. I wanted to restrict things, so that I could present within the time you have given us.
I will begin by describing the situation in the DRC.
The DRC has 80 million inhabitants spread out over a vast territory. It is the second-largest African country, just after Algeria. Its 80 million hectares of arable land can feed the African continent, and part of the world.
The DRC has also been called a ''geological scandal'', given the rich diversity of minerals it has, among other things: coltan, gold, copper, oil, diamonds, silver, zinc, uranium, manganese, tin, germanium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, coal, hydroelectricity, wood, and so on. And despite that, a recent United Nations human development index ranked it 178th out of 188 countries. This makes the DRC one of the poorest countries on the planet.
How can a country so rich in natural and human resources be so poor? The recurrent reason for the DRC's delayed development is the authoritarian political system, which is both repressive and permissive.
As opposed to the ideal type of state described by Max Weber, the Congolese state still bears the marks of the patrimonialist system that has existed from its origins in 1885, when the Berlin Conference made it the property of King Leopold II without the consent of its inhabitants.
Since then, despite independence and the presence of Congolese people at the head of the country today, the economy is still outward-looking. The political system, which appears to be republican, is in reality neo-patrimonial, that is to say, authoritarian and characterized by a high level of generalized violence. The prosperity of organized gangs that are there in addition to the rife militia and other private, highly-armed protection services bear witness to the country's failure in the first duty of the state, which is to provide security for its citizens.
And to those indicators you must add the important and sustained role of appointments based on favours and not merit, at various administrative levels. Moreover, the law is applied differently, according to the category of citizens involved. In addition, there is blind repression of peaceful demonstrations.
Furthermore, the development and implementation of public policy is frequently aligned with corporate interests. The authority of the state is missing at several levels. This is a state where repression cultivates intimidation and discourages public participation. It is not concerned with the social contract, which in a republic gives the state the mission of ensuring the safety of persons and their property. Instead of that, personal enrichment, corruption and predation continue to prevail over ethics and legality.
The authoritarianism and permissiveness of the state, as described above, has a negative effect on all areas of life, political, economic and social. The centralization of power and the absence of political participation that accompanies it deprive the country of the opportunity for structural change conducive to developing the economy. When the economy languishes, so does society.
Let's talk about the social and humanitarian repercussions, more specifically.
Two decades of conflicts have left behind armed groups, foreign and local militia that still exploit our minerals, in addition to terrorizing the population. In the east of the country, in Beni, more particularly, and in the Kasai region, the knifing massacre of populations by armed groups continues despite the presence of the national army and of MONUSCO.
The unemployment rate in the DRC is estimated to be 51%, which explains the exodus of the Congolese who are looking for a better life, and have moved to neighbouring countries or elsewhere abroad these past years.
According to a UN estimate from January 2018, there are 540,000 refugees in the DRC, and 4.5 million displaced persons. Many of these were forced to choose exile because of the insecurity there, as is the case in Kasai. When shortly thereafter, asylum seekers were expelled from the host country, as was the case recently when Angola expelled some 250,000 Congolese refugees, this generated a serious humanitarian crisis that requires assistance.
In short, the Congolese state, rather than encouraging national productivity and developing markets that would be profitable for the country, has a permissive attitude which favours the illicit exploitation of resources. A change in government is needed.
If the elections announced for December 23 could take place in a transparent and credible way, the political change the population wishes to see, and the rule of law promised by parties such as the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, the UDSP, might well see the light of day, with the end of Kabila's mandate.
As Canadians, we must demonstrate the forward-looking responsibility discussed by Hans Jonas, so that the knowledge and means our society has at its disposal are used to facilitate the political change on the horizon in the Congo.
There are other effective things Canada can do. A Canadian law should hold Canadian organizations to account so that they behave ethically in their activities abroad, such as in the Congo. Canada's reputation is at stake.
Canada can see to it that armed groups in the eastern part of the country in Kasai and Katanga are opposed by international forces such as MONUSCO forces.
Given the presence of voting machines, the corrupt electoral lists, and the refusal of DRC authorities to accept international observers, Canada should not rush to recognize the results of the election planned for December 23, if that election is won by Kabila's anointed successor.
From a humanitarian perspective, displaced persons need transportation, food and housing. Canada can mitigate that suffering.
Should the election be postponed for any reason, we could invite Mr. Kabila, who is at the end of his mandate, to resign, so as to leave—
I may have a problem with the interpretation, but I think you understood me.
I will explain as best I can the role UDSP representatives play outside of the country.
UDSP Canada is a civil organization based in Canada whose purpose is to inform the Government of Canada and the Canadian public about the situation in the Congo, and it tries to influence them in the right direction, which is the direction of change.
The UDSP has been fighting since 1982 for political change in the Congo. The party advocates for a respectful, law-abiding state, one that will respect not only human rights, but also the normal missions of a country, the first of which should be to ensure the safety of its citizens. If such a state could be set up, we would see good participation of civil society in the economy and the proper functioning of the country.
To my knowledge, this is also what UDSP militants advocate in other countries. They generally work in co-operation with other Congolese groups, even if they are not part of UDSP.
I will now answer the second question concerning the dangers these people face when they go back to the country.
Some of them are well-known for having spoken out openly or opposed the country's political system. Generally, there is a file on those people in the country. If they go back there, they may well be harmed, and may be kidnapped or killed in a way that cannot be traced back to the state. It will be made to look like an accident or a kidnapping; and then people will say that the person just disappeared. Those are the risks those people face. However, there are less visible actors who can go back to the country without running into too many problems.
I don't know if I answered your question properly. If you need further clarification, I can continue.
Mr. Raj, let me thank you, because you've really summarized the ideas I have. You're a world player, and if we can all think this way, I think Congo can be a peaceful land and a land of opportunity. Why do I say this? It's because, as you have rightly put it, the situation in Congo has been there for the last 50 to 100 years, and all approaches that we've taken, if we say they are successful, then we don't recognize all of these millions of people who are dying. We have failed. For us to be successful, we need new approaches, new momentum to recreate this Congo and we will all benefit.
What do I mean by what I'm saying? I actually spoke about transition. What I meant by transition is exactly that. You mentioned all political parties, and we've been recycling all of the same people—politicians—over and over for 50 years, but we are expecting different solutions while we're just recycling those problems. None of the people you've mentioned have not been a player. They have participated in the destruction of Congo.
I want to suggest to this honourable committee that the solution for Congo is to make it, under UN resolution, a protectorate state of the UN. This protectorate state will give a chance for the youth, who have been suffering, who have everything to lose and who have everything to gain, to start rebuilding their country. They will work with the UN. They will work with international partners, and those are the only people who can organize elections. These parties we have cannot properly organize elections. Kabila refused to leave power. He took his own crony, his uncle, to re-run, and he took power from his father, so what will really happen?
This protectorate state that I'm talking about has worked everywhere. There are many examples and Congo is not a standalone example. For instance, we did this in East Timor. The United Nations helped to create that transitional government. We had this in Eastern Slavonia, and now we have it in Kosovo and Canada is helping through NATO.
Mr. Kapenda, I look at your list of recommendations, and they're definitely a list of all the things that need to be done to stabilize any nation, including Congo. The problem is, how is any of that possible until you have a stable government?
I'm looking at the recommendation for a transitional government. I know a number of nations go through that. Sometimes after the election, the vice-president takes over. There's a transitional government for a while.
My colleagues have said that there doesn't appear to be any one candidate in the coming election, except for the one people don't want, because he's the one creating all the terror—at least the government-driven terror. How would you recommend that Canada would be involved in supporting a transitional government? Have you put that recommendation to the United Nations?
I note that there's already a huge investment by the UN in peacekeepers in the stabilization mission, yet they haven't been able to have any effect. My understanding would be that the support for a stable, peaceful nation is going to have to come from the people of Congo. Surely it's going to have to take somebody in the Congo to bring everybody together. I can't imagine some external force coming in—Canada, the United States, any other nation—and imposing some kind of transitional government and that going over well.
I would welcome what you mean by a transitional government. In addition, I'll just throw out a couple of questions to you.
Absolutely, there needs to be references to the International Criminal Court. First of all, you have to get a hold of those people, get them out of the country and bring them to the court. Certainly we want to have retraining for the child soldiers. However, with a lot of the obviously really great platform that you have for reform for the country, you need to have the stabilization first.
I guess what I would ask is what you're asking of Canada that Canada could do alone, or are you asking us to make requests of others to do something, for example, towards the transitional government?
I think I will begin and take advantage of the opportunity to go back to the previous question.
I would like to say that the current problem in the Congo is the state, the government. When I talk about the state, I mean the government, the political system that is in place. As I said, that system has not changed much since Leopold II, or since independence. With the elimination of Joseph Kasavubu and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, who was the symbol of independence, the country quickly went back to having incompetent leaders. Those leaders are not chosen by the population, but generally imposed from the outside, and that is where the problem lies.
However, there are alternate solutions. Indeed, contrary to what my colleague said, and what I just heard, there are a number of options in Congo. We mentioned parties like the UDSP, who are still waiting in the wings, and are critical of the poor functioning of the state. They have an alternate plan to offer. They want to bring in democracy, the rule of law, the respect of the Constitution, and so on. These people exist; they are real.
On this, you have to be careful about appearances. You can see, for instance, that Félix Tshisekedi is young and new, as is Martin Fayulu. However, Félix Tshisekedi is not only Félix Tshisekedi, but also the leader of the UDSP. He has a plan, the UDSP project. That party is very well organized in the Congo. It has enough leaders that could bring about rapid change in the Congo, even if they took over the government by themselves.
If you think that the issue in the country is the state, that political change is indeed possible, and that there are people available to bring it about, I don't see where the problem lies. The problem is the state, and it is that same state which today sees to it that elections do not unfold normally. However, that other government is in the wings and is fighting for better elections. These people have fought for the elimination of the voting machine, which they believe is an inadequate system. They think that because they believe it makes cheating possible. They fought for the electoral list to be reviewed. The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie audited the electoral list and concluded that it was indeed corrupt.
It's a struggle. We are asking for the support of a country like Canada for pressure to be exerted so that we can have better elections.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before the members of the committee to give my testimony. This gives me the opportunity to talk about the situation of women in my country, and also about the needs of our population in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Canada has been supporting my country for several decades. Canada has come to the aid of the survivors of sexual violence, a plague that ravages and destroys the dignity of Congolese women, our dignity, my dignity. Canada supports several projects in Congo. Our organization, the Congolese Women's Fund, is currently executing a project funded by the Women, Peace and Security Program, entitled “Renforcement des capacités des femmes sur la médiation des conflits électoraux en République démocratique du Congo”, to strengthen women's skills in mediating electoral conflicts in the DRC. We are in the midst of an electoral process at this time. As we speak today, in the context of that project, we have begun training 30 electoral conflict mediators, 45 observers and 45 candidates. We are grateful to the people of Canada, to its government, and to its Parliament.
Today we are discussing conflict, peace and security. It is important to include women in all steps in the resolution of conflicts and in the peace process, whether village women or city women. Since violence reigns over our daily lives, we Congolese women are trying to force open the door so that we can participate and take our place in the peace process, pursuant to United Nations Resolution 1325. Armed conflicts continue to dehumanize the Congolese people.
In light of this, we are asking Canada to work for peace, not only by offering financial aid to mitigate the consequences of this violence, notably by supporting the project to fight against sexual violence—and we are very grateful for that help—but also by providing men in the commands and United Nations troops to fight these anti-values and contribute effectively to the establishment of peace.
We have been through atrocious wars for more than 20 years in the DRC. It is more than time for Canada to really get involved and throw all of its weight behind ending these interminable wars. Armed groups or rebels from neighbouring countries like Rwanda or Uganda should go back to their countries, and we want Canada to help us defend that point of view and support our efforts so that they are sent back home. A program to demobilize local militia should be supported by Canada. Your country will, however, have to see to it that women take part in the development of that program, to avoid past errors that occurred in other programs set up by other countries.
Canada must support women's associations directly and trust Congolese organizations, so that the funding we have heard about, from the feminist fund, is used to support the efforts of Congolese women.
In order to resolve conflicts, women have to be involved in the peace negotiation process and in politics. Canada must provide significant financial and technical support for the efforts made by Congolese women, and for the organizations that are working for peace, pursuant to Resolution 1325. Canada must also facilitate exchanges with other women in the world and in Canada about their experience. Moreover, Canada should support training for young people and women on peaceful cohabitation.
Canada should strengthen its influence in the Great Lakes region and ask leaders to respect their commitments to peace and non-aggression and the fight against sexual violence. It should also support the peoples' efforts in advocating for democracy.
Despite this bleak picture, the Congolese people, especially the women, remain hopeful. They're working tirelessly and with a smile. We want to change our situation and build a real democracy to reach the targets set out in the sustainable development objectives by 2030. That's why the Congolese people, especially women, are working each day to ensure credible, free, transparent and democratic elections. We don't want any election that could plunge us back into even more deplorable situations. We want the system to change. We're asking Canada to support this hope.
Democracy brings peace and security. Canada must help the Congolese people in their quest for free, transparent, democratic and peaceful elections. Today, the Congolese people want and deserve clean elections, with a level playing field, real choices and real competition. We're asking Canada to work with its allies and local partners to support Congo and address the important aspects of the electoral process, such as the security of the vote and fraud prevention. Through its support of major observation missions, Canada has always been a leader in promoting free and fair elections around the world.
In terms of respect for human rights, Canada must help us by clearly expressing its position on the serious human rights violations occurring in the DRC. Canada must work with its partners to put pressure on the authorities in the DRC and on anyone who commits human rights violations or sexual violence or who pillages resources. This includes the neighbouring countries that, in doing so, perpetuate the wars.
Justice strengthens peace, and peace is fuelled by justice. Canada must support the restoration of justice, since legal dysfunction and impunity fuel conflicts. Canada must also make significant efforts to help the judges and lawyers who support reform and to improve access to a fair justice system for ordinary Congolese people, especially women survivors of conflict and sexual violence.
We're asking Canada to become involved and to support free elections, an independent judiciary, a strong civil society and free media. These are the essential components of democracy, where accountable and transparent decision-making is the norm and where people and their rights are respected and protected. This will address serious human rights violations and build democracy, peace and development.
A new Congolese Women's Fund project will help the associations provide access to legal aid for the most vulnerable women survivors, work for peace so that they can also benefit...
Mr. Chairman, members of the standing committee, ladies and gentlemen, bonjour
, hello. It is my honour to be standing here in front of you.
My name is Yvette Yende-Ashiri, and I'm an Afro-French-Canadian woman. I'm an advocate for women's and young girls' rights, and for social justice. I was born in Zaire, which is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo. When I pronounce the word “democratic”, I always ask myself and wonder what is democratic in Congo.
I am here today to be the voice of many women and young girls who don't have a voice. I believe, just as Julienne Lusenge said, that the solutions are in the hands of the women. Women need to be and must be at the table where decisions are taken. Women are the ones who should decide their fate. Women must be the ones leading the country. Women must be respected and considered as equal human beings, like you and me. The solutions will come from women and no one else.
Congo is a country that has been living under the domination of colonization up to now. I consider that this country, which is my home country, is still going through unfairness, especially when it comes to the status of women and young girls. What follows is an extract of the message from women and young girls from the city of Beni in North Kivu, addressed to MONUSCO. I will read this in French.
Our first message is: [...] we are the girls, the women of the city of Beni. We want peace in Beni. That is our first message! We want peace!
As an international community represented here by MONUSCO, you have certain mandates that are recognized and that you must fulfill to protect the people of [Beni] from the killings. [...] Resolution 1334, which gives you the mandate to contact the rebels and tell them to cease fire. We are asking what are you waiting for, what are you waiting for, how many massacres, how many bodies, how many deaths before you tell the rebels [to] cease fire?
[...] We are saying that [...] we have children who have been kidnapped, who are in the bush. [...] What are these children doing [in the bush]? [...]
[...] 60% [of the] rebels in the parks [...] are not [C]ongolese. [...] Only 40% of the rebels are [C]ongolese. We want to know [...] have you ever wondered how these people came from elsewhere to reach [Beni]. Have you ever wondered about the supply of [weapons], and what measures you have implemented to [control] the [...] supply of weapon[s]?
This message was addressed to MONUSCO. As you can hear, the women of Congo have been experiencing violence for more than 24 years. Their bodies have been used as war weapons. Congolese women are very resilient women. Congolese women need a change in Congo. We always wonder why we cannot put an end to the war in Congo.
I heard earlier that we were talking about Bosnia. I do believe that if we dig further, with the help of Canada, we can put an end to this war.
What is behind this war? Why is it that the country of Congo is suffering so much?
The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered for a long time as a result of the proliferation and illicit flow of small arms and light weapons and the lack of regulation of the weapons control mechanisms. The Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, was adopted, signed and ratified, but Canada and the DRC didn't sign it. However, we commend Canada for its efforts to join the ATT, because at least Canada recognizes that the ATT sets a real global standard that helps prevent human rights violations and save lives.
The purpose of the ATT is to protect people from weapons. The ATT ensures that countries effectively regulate the international arms trade to prevent weapons from being used to support terrorism, international organized crime, gender-based violence and violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.
Our recommendations are as follows.
First, Canada must put pressure on the government of the DRC and encourage it to join the Arms Trade Treaty to prevent human rights violations and save lives. The Honourable , a member of Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated as follows: “We must continue to encourage other countries to join this treaty, and we must ensure it is properly implemented globally.”
Canada must also show its involvement in disarming armed forces and groups that operate in the DRC. Despite the presence of MONUSCO, we recommend that the Canadian government propose that the Security Council send a quick reaction military force that's similar to the Operation Artemis force, in order to quickly disarm the armed groups in the eastern DRC, since there are daily casualties.
The next recommendation concerns mining. The DRC is a victim of its natural resources, which are a source of envy. The presence of Canadian mining companies mustn't create misery for the Congolese people. The Canadian government must ensure that the socio-economic and environmental benefits of the presence of Canadian companies help improve the situation of Congolese people, and must also ensure the security of mining areas.
I'll conclude by stating the following. No war means no rape or child soldiers.
Thank you very much to both of you.
You finished where I would like to start, on sexual violence. It's a big disaster, and a scourge in the region with what's happening there. We know that MONUSCO is supposed to be the United Nations organization for stabilization in the DRC.
Talking about the election on December 23, the question is going to be for both of you, and please participate as you wish.
The sexual violence that's happened there is a very important issue. It's not even on the ballot box among the parties that are running. MONUSCO is supposed to have some influence in that fashion, at least to be able to push such an important issue forward to be on the ballot box so people start talking about it. It's beyond the economy and beyond the money. We know that the country has resources, and I think that the focus should be there.
Since both of you, the WCWFF with Ms. Ashiri, or the SOFEPADI with Ms. Lusenge, are both very active in that area, I would appreciate a brief on this area. What's happening on this topic when it comes to the election, and what's going on? How much are you hearing from the international community on that topic?
This brief from both of you to this committee will be greatly appreciated. Whoever wants to start first, we'll be happy to hear from you.
Thank you for the question.
We've been working on these issues for a number of years now. We meet with survivors all day, every day. I asked my colleagues in Beni to close the office, because the situation there had become too unbearable as a result of the massacres, the Allied Democratic Forces and the Ebola virus. That day, my colleagues told me that they couldn't close the office because they had three new cases of sexual violence.
Sexual violence is currently on the rise and is increasing in all villages and cities. Why? As my colleague said, if there were no wars or armed groups, sexual violence would decrease or become less frequent. These wars have destroyed our society. Now, there are no longer any morals or social norms. People behave as they wish. Both civilians and solders commit rape because they can do so with impunity. The justice system doesn't work. The administration is virtually non-existent. Our country has been completely destroyed.
We've even recorded cases involving MONUSCO officers. Why? The international community sends forces from countries where women's rights aren't respected. When these people commit crimes or sexual violence in our country, they're simply sent back to their country. They aren't punished and no remedy is sought for the victims. This shows impunity.
In addition, the Congolese justice system is dysfunctional. Some judges commit to working. In a few cases, the victims were able to access justice, we won our case and the perpetrators were convicted. However, even if the perpetrators are sent to prison, they manage to leave prison within a short amount of time. They return to the communities and they threaten the activists, lawyers and victims.
There are also the terrorists, such as the Allied Democratic Forces or the Maï-Maï. All armed groups that enter a village will rape the women to punish the people and dehumanize our community. To end this pattern of sexual violence, Canada and the other allied countries must be able to send forces to combat all these armed groups. It's necessary to start with the groups that come from abroad, the Allied Democratic Forces, who are real terrorists. Every day, they slit throats and cut open our people. The Interahamwe and FDLR must return to Rwanda. These Rwandan peoples must return home. We can then demobilize the Maï-Maï. We women must be involved in the development of a demobilization program. The other programs were planned without our presence at the table. Some important factors that could have stopped the recruitment of child soldiers weren't taken into account.
I'll let my colleague continue to elaborate on this issue before I speak about the December 23 elections.
Women are attacked because they run as candidates. A woman from Goma even disappeared. She was kidnapped and she hasn't been found yet. That said, many people in the community, population and villages are saying that we must now support women, because men have failed.
The men who have been in power, who have pillaged and who have stolen money will buy consciences with money. Women don't have any money. Since our people are poor, women who campaign are asked whether they'll provide a little something, such as salt, oil or a few medications. Yet the women have no money to provide, and they try to explain that they want to change this situation. However, in times of famine, a hungry stomach has no ears. Our people have been dehumanized by a group of individuals who have held power for a long time, who have systematically pillaged and who have destroyed the entire social system.
As a result of the support of Canada and other partners, we women have trained the trainers, who have then trained other observers. We can therefore help women who don't have any money benefit from the services of women observers, witnesses and mediators. These women are then able to volunteer, observe the election process and report on the process. They'll assist the other women candidates in the villages in order to increase the candidates' visibility and help the candidates use our machines to print the photos for their campaigns.
Women are standing tall. They're fighting because they want to have strong presence where the decisions are made. However, this isn't easy. The situation is very hostile. The groups of people of who have plundered the country for a long time aren't giving up. Nevertheless, women are standing tall. The public and youth support some women, the real women. We don't want to be represented by women who have been imposed on us and who constitute a mere decoration. We want feminist women who make our voices heard. That's why we're working day and night to defend the rights of women, to support them, to observe and to denounce any anomalies in a democratic election.
So far, the situation is uncertain. There's a great deal of tension and violence in our country right now. Nevertheless, we maintain that we must run in these elections and remain steadfast if we want the situation in our country to change.
Your first question was about election monitoring. The Catholic Church is going to deploy as many observers as possible. In addition, an American organization called Freedom House, associations and young people have expressed their desire to volunteer as election observers to make sure the elections are conducted properly and thus bring the regime destroying the country to an end. All the women who belong to the associations provide training, as do some Congolese experts. As I said earlier, Canada contributed $280,000, or $301,000 Canadian, under the women, peace and security program. That money helped us train all those women, and we will continue to train and help women.
We need help to secure areas in which women are running. We want to clean up those areas. You've seen how the UN mission has fallen short. Despite being on the ground for more than 15 years, the UN hasn't been able to bring the fighting in the country to an end. If you keep pumping money into MONUSCO, Canadian taxpayer dollars will continue to support an initiative that will not lead to a solution. Why can't Canada lobby the UN and its allies to establish a military force to combat armed groups, similar to the Operation Artemis troops deployed by France in Bunia? Even our military says the rebels are Jihadists and that it can't contain them because they are waging asymmetrical warfare. The military is unable to gain the upper hand. How can women stand for office in areas occupied by armed groups, when they risk being kidnapped, raped or even killed? It is high time to help us clean up those areas.
This is not just about the December 23 elections. We have a process, an election agenda that goes right up to 2020. Local elections will be held in March. For that, we need Canada to not just provide financial assistance, but also lobby the UN to deploy military troops to combat all the armed groups and demobilize the areas in order to foster peace.
The focus needs to be on something other than the Ebola virus. The reason people in Beni reacted the way they did to health care workers treating the virus was that it showed the international community was more concerned about eradicating the outbreak—an important objective, to be sure—than it was about addressing the fact that the people in Beni were being slaughtered every single day. Some of them don't even sleep at home anymore. More than a thousand residents move around every night, looking for a safe neighbourhood to sleep in. They come home the next day. Children don't go to school anymore. The orphans produced by the massacres are not taken into account. How can people possibly stand in an election in that context?
The people have spoken: they don't want to see those in power stay in power. Help us ensure the elections are conducted properly. We hope the Catholic Church will be able to deploy enough observers and help us [Technical difficulty—Editor].