The Great Lakes Region has experienced pockets of violence and instances of political instability that has led to critical examination of the root cause of conflicts in order to end the same.
Devolution and ASAL Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa has said in some instances, violence has spilt over to the neighboring countries, making the problem a regional concern.
Speaking in Nairobi Monday during a High-Level Regional Consultation on Justice and Good Governance that brings together Ministers of Justice from the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Wamalwa noted that countries should work together to address weaknesses and challenges that contribute to violence systemically, structurally and institutionally in a holistic approach.
“The fight against impunity requires concerted efforts of our countries and we need to establish strong institutions that are equipped to fight the impunities bedeviling us as they remain a threat to the security of the region,” he added.
The CS especially noted that the three day conference will be addressing the thorny issue of sexual and gender-based violence, where perpetrators of impunity have persistently taken advantage of weak judicial systems in the region to perpetrate human rights abuses.
“We want to create a peaceful and stable region that is devoid of free from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), a region where women, girls and vulnerable members of society are empowered to participate in peace building and economic development growth and enjoy equitable access to the benefits of sustainable development,” Wamalwa added.
He noted that although Kenya has made progress since the ICGLR formation 10 years ago and also through legislators who have brought sexual offences bill as well as the new constitution that strengthens human rights bill, a favorable declaration and roadmap that will guide the future efforts in maintaining peace and stability by promoting access to justice and promoting and protecting human rights is necessary.
He explained that the Kampala declaration in 2011 by the ICGLR is clear that as a region, there is need for zero tolerance to gender violence through working together thus this meeting will compare experiences, have candid talks and make declarations and actions to take that will go beyond the resolutions of the conference.
During the declaration meeting in Kampala, each member country was to address gaps in national implementation and concretely work towards prevention, ending impunity for SGBV and provide comprehensive support to all who experience the vice.
Wamalwa said meeting will not only be addressing SGBV but also issues of impunity, rule of law as well as strengthening of systems through learning from each other.
Ambassador Zachary Muburi-Muita, Executive Secretary ICGRL said establishment of the ICGLR – ( Regional Training Facility (RTF) center that trains and sensitizes police units, judicial officers among others who handle cases of sexual violence in the Great Lakes region is one such commitment to fight impunity in sexual violence crime.
“The center of excellence looks at matter of SGBV in a holistic manner and although we are not out of the woods yet, we have made progress in that area,” he said.
Amb.Muburi cited that there are still challenges such as establishment of judicial cooperation network of all players in the 12 member states countries, infrastructure and also resources but noted that coming together in the meeting, they will be able to compare best practices from across region and churn out what needs to be taken.
The first Executive Secretary of (ICGLR), Liberata MulaMula said it was a shame for the region especially when one watches glaring statistics on SGBV.
“2 out of 3 women undergo violence at domestic level and despite the progress we have made since we started the ICGLR ten years ago, we still have unfinished business”, she said
Amb. MulaMula said there is need to put an end to women on statistics and objectifications and be able to see the missing link gap in the initiatives and include harmonized kind of legislation to fight the sexual based violence.
She noted that some member countries have already declared the SGBV as a criminal act and punishes accordingly, but there are other countries that still have some soft gloves.
Although some governments have committed and there is a political will, she noted that full commitment is still lacking on zero tolerance. “Through the Kampala declaration, there is only zero attention and because of this we want to bring issues on the floor and say we need action”
“We know the what, where, who and when but we need to focus on how to address implementing deficit on the SGBV”, Amb. MulaMula said
Jackline Matere , from an organization known as Grace Agenda and being a survivor of 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya, said during that time many of the women who were violated and even got children from those rapes have not been acknowledged by the government.
Representing the survivors of rape, Matere said their narrative has been that since the IDPs were recognized, the SGBV survivors have been recognized to date and they have not been given any form of humanitarian support.
“Today in this meeting we want to hear what it is that they are preaching and they are actually practicing’’, she said, adding that many of the women who were violated during the clashes 10 years down the line nobody wants to talk about them.
Matere said that they have petitioned parliament, Attorney General Chambers, and Senate on implementing what the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) had said on the survivors section under priority A as a vulnerable group but has never been acted upon to date.
“We want to hear what ICGLR want to say about survivors of SGBV and not just Policy talk but what action and activities they are going to put on the ground,” she said.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is an inter-governmental organization of the countries in the African Great Lakes Region.
Its establishment was based on the recognition that political instability and conflicts in these countries have a considerable regional dimension, thus requiring a concerted effort in order to promote sustainable peace and development
By Wangari Ndirangu