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Day 15: WILPF DRC President Speaks of Recent Goma Occupation

9 December 2012

The news announced earlier this week that rebels from the M23 movement had finally withdrawn from the DRC city of Goma, was met with much relief. But what does this withdrawal really mean for the DRC – in particular for women, who face a shocking rate of sexual violence, as victims of the ongoing conflict?

We spoke to WILPF DRC President Annie Matundu Mbambi during M23’s recent occupation of Goma, and asked her how WILPF International can help in the continuing struggle for peace in the DRC.

What have been some of the experiences of you and other WILPF members in the DRC with M23, armed groups and violence against women in general? How are you and other WILPF members experiencing the latest developments?

Picture of rebel tank entering Goma
Rebel tank entering Goma

The M23 are the rebels who attack our country and rape our women.

Since April 2012, WILPF DRC have been following news reports on various channels based in the east of the DRC, but at the moment, we have no news on our members, as there is no electricity or Internet access.

As a result, we are cut off from the situation on the front line and we can only follow the information broadcast by various media

The statement of Congolese women that you forwarded to us was critical of the arms embargo and the list of names being sanctioned by the UN, EU and other international forces. How do you feel about the embargo? Do you think it helps the women on the ground in the DRC in any way? Does it effectively deal with the illicit arms trade, and if not, do you have any other ideas for a solution to this issue?

The spokesperson for MONUSCO pointed out in a press conference in 2011 that “the arms embargo, which dates from 2003, is intended for the numerous armed militia in the east of the DRC, notably in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, as well as the area of Ituri.”

He also noted that the sanctions regime mentioned in the 1952 resolution aims to protect the institutions of the DRC against armed militants and comprises “an arms embargo, air traffic control measures, individual sanctions for those who ignore it and the mandate of the Group of Experts responsible for monitoring these measures and making suggestions on how to increase its effectiveness.”

The Congolese women have called for the lifting of the embargo on weapons placed unfairly on the DRC for more than a decade, even though women have repeatedly been the victims of acts of aggression since 1996. This may seem controversial but in fact, it would allow the control of the entering of arms rather than them being supplied illegally and hidden behind the embargo.

How do you see the role of women in the DRC peace process? Do they have a role at the moment? And how do you feel they could contribute?

The role of Congolese women remains essential and is a priority in the peace process in the DRC.

We are aware that, at the moment, it is the men of the state who negotiate between themselves and that the women are not involved in the process even though they could contribute to the negotiations of these conflicts.

The Congolese women have issued pleas and declarations since the M23 revolt started, but they are not taken into account because the men think that the war is a male matter and in our opinion, the war in the DRC has become a business.

However, we won’t give up and our fight for lasting peace in the DRC will continue. A striking example of this is the involvement of Congolese women in the 2004 Sun City negotiations in South Africa which helped the DRC to re-establish peace for a while and which led to the 2006 elections.

Finally, what can we, as WILPF members from around the world, do from here to help the women in the DRC? Can you use our support and how?

The fact that WILPF international has already issued the Congolese women’s declaration is a step forward.

WILPF international can take initiatives for issuing an international plea, on behalf of the signatory countries in the peace resolutions, and respecting the sovereignty of the DRC.

If the peace resolutions and agreements are not respected, what is the point of member states implementing them at all?

We need worldwide female solidarity to put an end to the violence towards women in the DRC.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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