(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.
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