Ploumen: human rights defenders in Congo need protection

Emergency workers and human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) must be protected, says Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. The Minister was speaking after talks with Alexandre Luba, the Congolese defence minister and deputy prime minister, and trade minister Jean-Paul Nemoyato. During those talks she focused on the position of Dr Denis Mukwege.

Last year human rights defender Dr Mukwege fled to Europe after narrowly escaping an assassination attempt in which one of his security guards was killed. The gynaecologist has now returned to DRC but his life remains in danger, and his work for female victims of rape and mutilation continues to be obstructed.

During the talks, the defence minister acknowledged that military personnel have been guilty of sexual violence against women, including rape.

The Netherlands is supporting the United Nations stabilisation and reconstruction plan aimed at combating violence, is helping to fund MONUSCO rape investigations, and will be spending one million euros this year on projects providing care and shelter to victims.

The Minister is on a visit to the Great Lakes Region, where she is finding out about the conflict in eastern DRC, security, the humanitarian situation, human rights and economic developments. Earlier she visited the transport company set up by Dutchman Roland Verbiest, where she also spoke to representatives of Vlisco, Heineken subsidiary Bralima and others.