11 August 2009

Congo-Kinshasa: Clinton Set on Ending Sexual Violence

Photo: State Dept.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is greeted as she arrives at the facilities of an aid organization in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo on August 11.

The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, travelled to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Tuesday, determined to press "very hard" for an end to violence against women and an end to fighting in the war-torn region.

Briefing reporters while flying to the DRC, Clinton indicated that she had encountered resistance to visiting the east, although she did not indicate whether this had come from her American advisers or DRC officials.

According to a transcript of the briefing released by the State Department, she said that "It was very important for me to go to Goma. I made that clear when we were planning this trip. A lot of concerns were raised and many objections. And I said, I know we can get there and we’re going. We’re going on a UN [United Nations] plane because we can’t take our plane in because it’s too big."

She added that while in the east, where she will meet with President Joseph Kabila, "I will be pressing very hard for not just assistance to help those who are being abused and mistreated, and particularly the women who are turned into weapons of war through the rape that they experience, but also looking for ways to try to end this conflict."

In an interview with the DRC's Radio Okapi, Clinton said ending sexual violence "has to start with making sure that the military of the DRC does not engage in any sexual and gender-based violence..."

In her briefing to journalists, Clinton also said that in a meeting in Luanda on Monday, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos had suggested that since a lot of money was being earned from minerals in the eastern DRC, there "has to be a way" in which the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and Rwanda could collectively prevent the mineral trade from funding militias in the region.

She also told reporters that she had lengthy discussions with Dos Santos about the need for rapid progress towards a new constitution and presidential elections, and about "greater transparency in the energy sector."

Although Angola held legislative elections last year, which Clinton has said were "peaceful and credible," it has not held presidential elections since the end of its civil war in the 1990s, and anti-corruption campaigners have repeatedly charged its oil sector with involvement in corrupt practices.

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