The UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict has praised the African Union for their measures to prevent conflict-related sexual violence. The UN documented over 3,000 cases in which rape and abuse were used as a weapon of war in Africa last year.
The situation is particularly troubling in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has the highest number of war-related sexual abuses against civilians.
In 2018, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo counted 1,049 cases of sexual violence connected to conflicts against 605 women, 436 girls, four men and four boys.
The majority of cases were attributed to armed groups, while the remaining were blamed on the armed forces of the DRC and Congolese national police.
But DR Congo is not the only country where civilians - in particular women and girls - aren't safe. There are many other states where members of armed groups and armies rape and sexually abuse them, such as Somalia or Libya.
Migrant abuse in Libya
In Libya, many migrant women and girls have reported being raped or sexually abused by traffickers, militants, as well as by interior ministry officials, while they were travelling across the country or being detained at migrant camps.
Refugees from Nigeria are particularly vulnerable to trafficking by armed groups or international criminal networks. Many told UN officials that they were sexually abused by armed men in uniform while they were in "connection houses" in Tripoli and Sabha.
Rapists often affiliated to armed groups
Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, pregnancy, forced abortion and sterilization "are not [inevitable] and therefore can and must be avoided," said the UN.
The African Union has dedicated an annual conference to the fight against war-linked sexual violence. The goal is to share the best prevention practices and strategies to help victims and combat sexual violence as a tool of war – which threaten peace, security and development.
Satisfaction for annual session against violence
"Satisfaction" for this initiative was expressed by Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict. Patten said the fact that this conference exists "shows the political will to transform the culture of silence and impunity into a culture of responsibility, attacking the deep causes of this phenomenon."
In order to help the African Union, the UN has asked for political and financial support to help countries accelerate the implementation of adequate legislation. Last May, the UN conference on this theme in Oslo was attended by 21 donor countries that pledged to give 363 million dollars to support NGOs working to help sexual abuse victims with.