Instability in Congo Calls for International Response

Citing that Democratic Republic of the Congo as one of those countries that deserves greater research and attention, the United States of America today underlined that the world should redouble its efforts to end instability in the African country.

In his remarks in Washington DC today, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson for Bureau of African Affairs says instability in DRC also deserves a higher place on US foreign policy priority list.

Mr. Carson notes since its independence on June 30, 1960, the D.R.C. has been mostly a poster child for many of the problems that have afflicted Africa over the past five decades–military coups, rampant corruption, anemic development, health pandemics, runaway inflation, conflict minerals, and poor governance.

“After many years of looking at and trying to deal with a string of recurring crises in the DRC, many people have ignored or written off the country as simply hopeless.” – Mr. Carson

Children in Bunyampuli, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu province, seek refuge near a camp of the UN mission in the country, MONUSCO, after heavy fighting between Government FARDC forces and the MaiMai Cheka militia group.

UN Photo

He explains that it would be a serious mistake for the people of the Congo, for those countries in Central Africa who neighbor and border it, and the global community that the instability in the D.R.C. is not cost free to the United States.

Why the world should redouble its efforts to end instability in the D.R.C?

According to Mr. Carson, no other conflict or act of violence since World War II has come close to taking so many lives in DRC.

He notes that Rwanda, Somalia, the civil war in the Sudan, and the conflict in Darfur all have commanded the world attention.

However, Mr. Carson says in the D.R.C., conflict and resulting disease have killed more than five million people since 1998.

“Let me say that again. Since 1998, more than five million people have died in the D.R.C. as a result of violence.” – Mr. Carson

Uruguayan peacekeepers with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) practice a shipboarding exercise on the UN 12 vessel on Tanganyika Lake near Uvira, South Kivu. UN Photo

Mr. Carson emphasizes that the international community has a moral imperative to act more effectively in the D.R.C. to break this cycle of death and suffering and to address the other consequences of this violence particularly the unmitigated rape and sexual violence against women and children, the nearly two million internally displaced people, the approximately 450,000 Congolese refugees who have been forced to flee into neighboring countries, and the absence of secure and prosperous lives for virtually the entire country.

“Secondly, the D.R.C.’s chronic instability has consequences for U.S. national interests and the interests of the nine other countries that border the D.R.C.” – Mr. Carson

He says these interests range from multination efforts to dismantle the Lord’s Resistance Army, to climate change and the protection of one of the world’s most important ecosystems, to advancing global energy security, and to the economic benefits that derive from open and secure borders.

If the D.R.C. were more stable and had an economy that benefitted all Congolese, it could become a leading exporter of natural resources, agricultural products, and scientific research that could attract substantial U.S. and other foreign investment, Mr. Carson added.

He says the D.R.C. possesses the second largest rainforest in the world, and it must be a critical partner in any global effort to combat climate change and to conserve and protect our biodiversity.

“Thirdly, there are good fiscal and financial reasons for redoubling international efforts in the D.R.C. – Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson says the United States, as well as many of its other international partners, has a number of competing international priorities that cry out for the money of American taxpayers.

And lastly, Mr. Carson points out that quite simply, the world cannot afford to fail in bringing stability to the D.R.C.

“If we are sincere in our hope that African countries will continue to make progress toward greater economic growth and development and toward achieving a more central role in the international community, then the D.R.C. will have to be a significant element in meeting these continental-wide and international aspirations.” – Mr. Carson

He explains that if instability continues to plague DRC, it will continue to absorb scarce resources, rather than reaching its potential to make contributions to global security and economic prosperity for its people and the region.

Mr. Carson says there are some concrete reasons to be optimistic about the D.R.C.’s future.

More of the D.R.C.’s soldiers and police are being paid regularly and increasingly through mobile banking, he said.

Its economy is slowly stabilizing, he said.

US Response to DRC’s challenges

The United States has been working closely with others in the international community to resolve the underlying causes of the instability in the D.R.C., as well as helping to mitigate the most recent crisis in the eastern Congo.

The US recognizes a comprehensive approach is absolutely essential, and it has proceeded in such a manner to address security, political, humanitarian, and development challenges simultaneously.

The US has made reducing sexual and gender-based violence and fighting impunity top priorities.

According to Mr. Carson, in 2009, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the D.R.C. on her very first trip to Africa.

Ms. Clinton met with President Kabila and she also visited Goma to speak out about the treatment and prevention of sexual violence against women and issued the demand for greater accountability for perpetrators.

The US have advocated at the highest levels for the arrest and prosecution of five officials of the Congolese army -the so-called FARDC five accused of sexual violence in 2008 and 2009.

The US is also training frontline Congolese soldiers on gender-based violence, human rights law, and other issues intended to improve civilian and military interactions.

“We have urged the FARDC to complete the process of removing child soldiers from its ranks.” – Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson underlines that clearly, a sophisticated and internationally backed solution is the only way forward.

The US wase able to achieve such a solution to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia through the Dayton Accords.

“We were able to end Africa’s longest running civil war, the conflict in Sudan, through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was negotiated by the IGAD states and supported by the United States, Norway, and Great Britain.” – Mr. Carson

He adds that a similarly energetic and international effort is now required for the D.R.C.

First and foremost, Mr. Carson says the DRC Government and its people have primary responsibility for rising to the challenges that they face.

However, Mr. Carson highlighted that the international community should be complementing these efforts with a more focused and holistic approach.

According to Mr. Carson, the D.R.C., Rwanda, Uganda, and other countries in the region must sign and implement the United Nations framework agreement as soon as possible.

The United States supports the principles in the agreement and the ongoing efforts by the United Nations to secure signatures. However, simply signing the agreement is not sufficient, he said.

In addition, the world needs to put flesh on the bones of the agreement by establishing a comprehensive peace process around the agreement’s principles.

This process needs to include all of the relevant parties not just the countries in the immediate region, but also local communities in the Kivus, civil society, and a clearly defined role for the international community, Mr. Carson noted.

And other, Mr. Carson cites that key international partners also have a role to play.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, the African Union, and the European Union’s structures, among others, all should elevate their focus and attention on the D.R.C, Mr. Carson said.

Finally, the United Nations must complete its reevaluation of the role and strength of MONUSCO and implement necessary changes to the mission’s structure as soon as possible.

“The United States strongly supports the integration of a regional intervention brigade into MONUSCO.” – Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson points out that if the international community is to adopt a holistic approach, the D.R.C. Government must build on the incremental reform progress it has made by implementing long-overdue reforms and demonstrating much greater political will and inclusivity.

He explains that it would be a serious mistake for the people of the Congo, for those countries in Central Africa who neighbor and border it, and the global community that the instability in the D.R.C. is not cost free to the United States.

He explains that it would be a serious mistake for the people of the Congo, for those countries in Central Africa who neighbor and border it, and the global community that the instability in the D.R.C. is not cost free to the United States.

US Committed to End violence and Instability in DRC

Recognizing that the security and humanitarian situation in the D.R.C. is the most volatile and violent in Africa, the United States of America reiterated its commitment to helping the D.R.C. and its neighbors end the cycle of violence and instability.

The highest levels of the U.S. Government are committed to helping the D.R.C. and the region achieve a sustainable peace.

In the UN Security Council, action s were taken to ensure that five of the most senior and most abusive M23commanders are now under targeted sanctions, and we have placed those same individuals under U.S. sanctions,.

Talks between the D.R.C. Government and the M23 began on December 9 in Kampala, and are being mediated by Uganda as the chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, known as the ICGLR.

The US government continues to urge the Ugandan Government to ensure that supplies to the M23 do not originate in or transit through Ugandan territory.

The Department continues to closely monitor reports of external support, and will continue to respond appropriately, including by reviewing our assistance, to deter this support if it should develops, Mr. Carson highlighted.

President Obama spoke with President Kagame and underscored that any support to M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace in the region.

The US government is using all the tools at our disposal to help address and end this crisis.

The US renews call upon everyone involved in the conflict to maintain the current cease-fire, to permit humanitarian access, and to pursue a sustainable political resolution through honest and meaningful dialogue.

In addition, the US remains committed to supporting MONUSCO’s robust implementation of its current mandate.

The US continues to work with the D.R.C. Government to professionalize its military, including continuing our training to army officers and support to the armed forces’ military justice capacities.

The United States provided more than $110 million in humanitarian assistance for Congolese refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict-affected civilians in Fiscal Year 2012, including a $5 million supplemental contribution for the increased needs in the D.R.C., Uganda, and Rwanda as a result of displacements caused by the M23 rebellion.

The US government is making clear that the Congolese Government must accelerate its efforts to deploy and strengthen state institutions and provide needed public services in the Kivus.

A peace agreement in 2003 formally brought years of war to a close, but fighting flared again in North Kivu that same year. An estimated 1.3 million IDPs remain in the DRC, while 350,000 Congolese have fled to other countries.

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.