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A female RCMP officer wearing a blue beret and a mask stands in front of a UN aircraft.

RCMP in Congo support local police and victims of violence

RCMP officers are part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is focused on protecting civilians and helping the country become more stable. Credit: RCMP


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is blessed with beauty and natural resources, but cursed by decades of fighting and turmoil that has left millions vulnerable and impoverished.

In 2018, the World Bank in DRC reported that an estimated 60 million people in the central African country live on less than $1.90 US a day.

More than 120 armed groups operate in several eastern provinces, including South Kivu, where RCMP Sgt. Emmanuelle Delisle works with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) in DRC. Delisle is one of three RCMP officers with MONUSCO, which is focused on protecting civilians and supporting efforts to make the country more stable. She's a member of a Specialized Police Team (SPT) dedicated to helping victims of sexual violence.

"In any society, especially in one where there is so much turmoil, women and children are the most vulnerable," Delisle says during an interview from Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu.

Supporting the victims and the helpers

The DRC, specifically the region where Delisle works, has been called the "rape capital" of the world. Sexual violence is rampant. Rape is treated as a taboo subject among the Congolese people and many crimes go unreported. Police and soldiers are also known to be perpetrators.

"The relationship between the population and the police, and other security forces, is not that great," says Delisle. "Trust needs to improve."

In the context of sexual assault investigations, part of the work includes training local officers how to treat a crime scene, collect evidence, interview victims and encourage them to get examined at the hospital in order for evidence to be collected.

It also means reassuring victims that it's safe to tell their story to police. Delisle says that's no easy task in a country where sexual assault victims are often shunned by their families and cast out when they're most in need of support.

"We've seen victims who aren't too concerned about (police) arresting someone," she says. "They're worried about where they are going to live and how are they are going to eat." She says witnessing that reality is a difficult part of the job, but one that can't be dwelled on.

"You have to realize you can't change everything and there are so many problems, you just have to work on helping where you can," says Delisle. "Our goal is to build something for tomorrow and build a legacy where people will get help."

The commitment to the job

RCMP Cst. Andrée Lapointe, a member of the RCMP's Sensitive and International Investigations Unit has been in the DRC for months. As chief of the Organized Crime Analysis Unit based in Goma, Lapointe compiles reports on different armed ethnic groups who continue to fight over land and economic resources.

"I know everything you'd want to know about them here in Congo," says Lapointe, whose reports analyze trends in criminal activity and help UN officials allocate resources.

Lapointe participated in investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. She used that experience in the DRC to develop a training program that included everything from collecting evidence from witnesses to locating mass graves.

Lapointe's eagerness to help people on the ground prompted her to join Delisle on the Specialized Police Team that works with victims of sexual abuse. "My wish was to be more in the field," says Lapointe. "I'm motivated to be on the ground, meet victims, and build relationships to help."

Both RCMP officers are committed to the DRC. They're learning Swahili, which is used in the east, and would stay longer if the mission allowed.

"I'm passionate about it," says Delisle, who hopes her work inspires people to consider the RCMP as a means to help people in Canada and internationally. "This is clearly a country that needs a lot of help, has a lot of problems. What we do seems so small, but I've seen that we make a difference."

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