Entries in Congo (2)


Ben Affleck: U.S. Can Do ‘Huge Amount’ to Help Resolve Conflict in Congo

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC(NEW YORK) -- Actor Ben Affleck — founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative – said Sunday morning on “This Week” that the United States can do “a huge amount” to help resolve the violent conflict in war-torn Congo that flared up as rebels seized control of the eastern city of Goma last week.

“There’s a huge amount that the U.S. can do, frankly. I mean, we have a lot of levers there.  We can engage in the kind of high-level, shuttle diplomacy that you saw be so effective in Gaza,” said Affleck, who expressed concern about the deteriorating conditions in the African nation.

“I mean, one of the things we’re hearing from our people there is that the schools that we fund, people are hiding out in.  The hospitals are completely overwhelmed.  They’re offering free care for war victims.  A shell just hit a camp and paralyzed a 5-year-old boy from the neck down.  So you’re hearing all kinds of — the kinds of brutal, terrible stuff that you hear about,” Affleck said earlier in the interview.

Affleck was joined by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who argued that the United States — tied up at the moment by recent events in the Middle East — can and should exert influence in the troubled region in Africa.

“Well, we have a lot of influence in the region.  I just want to emphasize that we are in a position to make a difference there.  We have built relationships with Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, a lot of it around Somalia, Al-Shabaab, Lord’s Resistance Army coming out of Uganda.  We have influence in the region with key players.  We need to get there in that type of high-level capacity,” Smith said.

“And I think it isn’t happening at the moment, because the attention is elsewhere.  It’s Gaza.  It’s Libya.  But, look, it’s all tied together in Africa,” he said. “The instability in countries in Africa, the lack of governance that’s in the Eastern Congo, leads to instability and leads to the type of problems that we’re going to have to deal with.  It’s in our interest to get in there, broker a peace deal.”

Affleck praised the Congolese people for their “resilience” and added that our foreign policy as a country, as he sees it, should represent our values.

“I mean, the amazing thing about the Congolese people is their degree of resilience and that they’ve been through this kind of stuff in the past.  And so they’re still dedicated and working hard, and we’ve seen our schools still open, hospitals, and so on,” Affleck said.  ”I think our actions in foreign policy — and maybe I am naive — you know, represent our values and represent who we are.  And if any American were to go to that country and stand and see what was happening there, they would insist that we do what we could.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ben Affleck Advocates for Increased Aid to Congo

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Advocates and government officials joined actor and director Ben Affleck Tuesday in an impassioned plea to Congress for increased government aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“In this time of heightened concern over federal spending some suggest that austerity demands we turn a blind eye to the crisis in Congo,” Affleck said to a full crowd at Tuesday’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee.  “I believe nothing could be more misguided.  It would simply be a penny wise and a pound foolish to allow the Congo to again fall into a state of crisis or further humanitarian chaos.”

The Academy Award-winner has teamed up with Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to highlight the intense suffering of the Congolese people.

After visiting the country multiple times, Affleck founded the non-profit Eastern Congo Initiative to help establish schools and bring medical assistance to victims of sexual abuse.  The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world and had been plagued by political turmoil since the Rwandan civil war spilled over its borders in 1996.  More than 1,100 women and girls are raped every month, 50 percent of whom do not have access to medical treatment, according to the State Department.

“Our moral compass is fixed.  Our sunrise, our East as a nation, even when we have failed, has always pointed us toward what's right,” Affleck said.  “We must be able to look ourselves in the eye and say that we did what our principles demanded.  We helped democracy emerge in a place where tragedy was the alternative.”

Affleck urged the U.S. to increase its involvement in the Congo ahead of November’s elections.

“The path to stability in today's Congo requires fostering stable elections and preventing another disaster that could easily require hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance,” he said.  “I humbly suggest that the U.S. government take a hard look at its current commitment and find a way to do more.”

The panelists called for Congress to appoint a special envoy to coordinate the efforts of non-governmental organizations and government agencies working in the country.  Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, who also testified, said the United States gives $6.8 billion in assistance to the war-torn nation.  Non-governmental organizations account for 85% of that aid.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio