Sophie Wessex becomes first member of the Royal Family to visit Democratic Republic of the Congo

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The Countess of Wessex’s visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo was planned before the Queen’s death

The Countess of Wessex has become the first member of the Royal Family to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sophie, who is the wife of Prince Edward, made a visit to the country to address “the devastating impact of sexual and gender based violence in conflict”.

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The mother-of-two, 57, was scheduled to visit at the request of the Foreign Office, several months before the death of her mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex greets well wishers as she arrives for a Platinum Jubilee celebration on June 4, 2022 in Belfast, United Kingdom. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Charles McQuillan - Pool /Getty Images)Sophie, Countess of Wessex greets well wishers as she arrives for a Platinum Jubilee celebration on June 4, 2022 in Belfast, United Kingdom. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Charles McQuillan - Pool /Getty Images)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex greets well wishers as she arrives for a Platinum Jubilee celebration on June 4, 2022 in Belfast, United Kingdom. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Charles McQuillan - Pool /Getty Images) | Getty Images

Sophie was given the opportunity to meet with peacebuilders, survivors and representatives from TRIAL International, in Bukavu, South Kivu Province of the DRC.

TRAIL is a non-governmental organisation which is dedicated to fighting impunity for international crimes in conflict.

Buckingham Palace released a statement in regards to Sophie’s trip, where she will be accompanied by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.

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The statement reads: “Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex is visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“The Countess is the first Member of the Royal Family to travel to the DRC, and Her Royal Highness’ visit will focus on addressing the devastating impact of sexual and gender based violence in conflict, while supporting and empowering survivors and tackling the stigma they face.

“The Countess of Wessex will be accompanied by Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Minister of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.”

The Countess of Wessex has campaigned to prevent sexual violence since 2019, when she announced her commitment to supporting the UK’s efforts in the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.

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Sophie, Countess of Wessex dons a £38 dress for her trip to the Pole Pole foundation in Bukavu, in South Kivu Province. (Credit PA)Sophie, Countess of Wessex dons a £38 dress for her trip to the Pole Pole foundation in Bukavu, in South Kivu Province. (Credit PA)
Sophie, Countess of Wessex dons a £38 dress for her trip to the Pole Pole foundation in Bukavu, in South Kivu Province. (Credit PA) | PA

She has since travelled to the likes of Kosovo, Lebanon, South Sudan and Sierre Leone.

In 2020, Sophie visited South Sudan during International Women’s Week - becoming the first British royal to visit that African country too.

The full-time working Royal met survivors of gender-based violence in Malakal, an area badly affected by the conflict and ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.

That same year, she wrote about her work in the Telegraph, as she accepted that it might be hard to see the conflict as a priority when it is so far from life in the UK.

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She wrote: “There are no magic wands when it comes to negotiating peace.

“Any and every negotiation will be fraught and difficult, requiring enormous patience and effort from all sides, open minds, a willingness to concede, but above all the desire to find peace.

“Including women in the process is essential and means a greater chance of sustained peace.”

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