Editor's Note: This blog was written by Raise Hope for Congo intern Nadia Ilunga.
On October 23, 2013, President Kabila stood in front of the Congolese National Assembly and pledged that he would “very soon” appoint a presidential adviser to address the issues of sexual violence and child soldier recruitment. His pledge was part of a larger speech responding to the recommendations brought forth during the “concertations nationales”, a period of national dialogue that had begun in September with the aim of addressing national cohesion, the functionality of state institutions, and the violence in the east.
Nine months later, many of the recommendations that emerged from these discussions remain unaddressed. On July 9th, however, the president made good on his promise of a presidential adviser with the appointment of Madame Jeannine Mabunda Lioko Mudiayi.
In his 2013 speech, President Kabila described the immediate role of the Presidential Adviser as leading the fight against sexual violence and child soldier recruitment as well serving as an interface to the international community regarding these issues. On a larger scale, however, he made clear that the appointment of an adviser was the first step in ensuring that the Congo becomes a country that is “…inhospitable for the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.”
After holding various positions in Congo’s finance industry, Madame Mabunda served as the Minister of Portfolio/State Assets from February 2007 to March 2012, and currently sits in the National Assembly as a representative of the Equateur province. She also runs her own foundation, which focuses on the infrastructural development of the Bumba territory and the Equateur province more broadly.
Madame Mabunda also demonstrates a set of passions and skills more closely related to her new title. She works with Collectif des Femmes Unies Contre le Silence (CFUCS), a non-profit organization that is dedicated to breaking the silence around the violent acts committed against women in the Kivus. CFUCS partners with the Panzi Hospital and other high profile organizations and individuals to provide a platform for discussion.
Madame Mabunda was also an outspoken advocate of U.S. Representative Karen Bass’s resolution H.Res 131, joining hundreds of other Congolese in a social media movement showing their support with the hashtag #ACTonDRC. She often posted tweets with statistics about sexual violence and children’s recruitment into armed forces, urging Americans to support the bill.
Most recently, Mabunda has been promoting “Lady’s First”, a Rawbank program designed to encourage female entrepreneurs by improving their access to financial services and creating opportunities for managerial training.
In a joint statement, UN Secretary General’s Special Representatives on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Children and Armed Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura and Leila Zerrougui, celebrated Madame Mabunda’s appointment as a “demonstration of President Kabila’s personal commitment to the fight against conflict-related sexual violence and recruitment and use of children in the DRC” and the mark of a “new dawn” for the country.
Madame Mabunda faces incredible challenges as she begins her work. She will need a robust outreach strategy to coordinate with civil society groups, the Congolese government, and the international community to make her work successful.
Photo: Women in Congo/Enough Project