ICGLR member states meet to combat sexual violence in the region

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The International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) member states held a special colloquium to facilitate carrying out of forensic investigations and proper documentation of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) crimes in the 12 member states.

While meeting at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Course Hotel for the conference that lasted from December 5 to 6, 2016, the Director of ICGLR- Regional Training Facility (RTF), Nathan Mwesigye Byamukama said Uganda is one of the countries in the region that has over 26,000 people on remand over sexual-violence-related crimes.

"We all know that sexual crimes are serious and yet the least prosecuted crimes," Byamukama said. "As ICGLR members states, we resolved that we give more training to our police in Uganda so as to reduce on the case backlog of sexual violence crimes, because many people are on remand due to lack of evidence to pin them as culprits."

The training of police, medical practitioners, Lawyers, social workers and judges will last for four years, starting next year. It will be supported by the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Development in Higher Education (NICHE) and the World Bank. Each of the 12 member states will submit trainees to make a total of 1000 that RTF can handle.

The ICGLR member states include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Central African Republic (CAR),Burundi, Angola, Sudan, South Sudan, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia.

Byamukama added that as ICGRL member states, they came together to fight SGBV because they discovered that these crimes are the most rampant yet the victims hardly get justice.

"We have established a Regional Training Facility (RTF) and here in the colloquium , we had Police and military, judges, lawyers, civil society organisations. We interrogated human trafficking as one of the forms of sexual violence, and currently a common phenomenon in Uganda because of our porous borders. These are the challenges that RTF will focus on training police so as to seek to resolve these crimes," Byamukama explained.

RTF was established in Uganda in 2014 and one of it's key objectives is to provide training and other technical support to ICGLR states in handling gender-related crimes in the region.

The minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Janat Mukwaya, in her speech read by minister of general duties Mary Karooro-Okurut, stated that the government and her ministry are much aware of the increasing cases of sexual violence, but promised to give all the necessary support to ICGLR in a push for a regional protocol on the matter.

"We all know that the Great Lakes Region is hot spot of conflict and there are credible reports if massive sexual violations, including by illegal armed groups and even by those forces that are charged with the duty to protect. Our role as technocrats and professionals is to implement their vision as effectively and efficiently as possible," the speech read.

The executive secretary of ICGLR, Zachary Muburi-Muita, said that the more the member states enhance sexual violence documentation and investigation skills, the better the justice and the more the region feels secure from crimes of sexual and gender based violence.

The conference was organised ahead of the International Human Rights Day that is slated for December 10 and it's also part of the global End of Violence Against Women campaign that started on November 25 and will end on December 10, 2016.

The colloquium was organised by RTF and supported by Population Council in Kenya, Swiss cooperation, Fida (Uganda) and Maastricht School of Management.