News / Africa

Actor, Experts Urge Action on Eastern Congo Security

Ben Affleck testifies before Congress on Congo Dec. 19, 2012Ben Affleck testifies before Congress on Congo Dec. 19, 2012
Ben Affleck testifies before Congress on Congo Dec. 19, 2012
Ben Affleck testifies before Congress on Congo Dec. 19, 2012
Cindy Saine
Actor Ben Affleck has urged members of Congress to push for more U.S. leadership in efforts to bring peace to the Congo. At the same hearing, a top U.S. diplomat said President Barack Obama's administration considers security in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a top priority.

Hollywood movie star Ben Affleck has visited Congo 10 times and has started an agency to provide relief to civilians in eastern Congo, who have been suffering since M23 fighters rebelled against the government and took control of the region in April.  Affleck said Wednesday the latest violence is nothing new for the people of the DRC.

"From 1998 to 2003, eight African nations fought on Congolese soil, causing the deaths of millions, forcing tens of thousands of children to become child soldiers, and in some areas of Congo subjecting as many as two of every three women to rape and other forms of sexual violence," Affleck said.

The United Nations estimates that since the M23 rebellion began earlier this year, nearly 1 million Congolese citizens have been displaced.  Some lawmakers at Wednesday's hearing criticized the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the region, and the Obama administration, for failing to end the violence, particularly sexual attacks against women and children.

James Jay Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation told the House Armed Services Committee it is time for U.S. policymakers to take a good look at the deteriorating situation.

"Stop doing what is not working.  The U.N. peacekeepers have been a failure.  Our efforts to reform the Congolese Army have been a failure," Carafano said.

The United States is spending $480 million a year to help the people of the Congo, including training some Congolese army units.

State Department officials say the money is well spent, and that efforts to train the Congolese forces should be expanded.  Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson assured lawmakers that the DRC is a priority for the Obama administration.

"The highest levels of the United States government are committed to helping the DRC and the region achieve a sustainable peace," Carson said.

The ranking Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, said the DRC has national security implications for the United States.

"We have seen in recent months that Africa is increasingly important in our national security interests, the instability there has given rise to many al-Qaida-inspired insurgencies," Smith said.

Affleck says that U.S. leadership is needed, but he is not asking Congress for more money.

"Resolving the cycle of violence does not necessarily require significant new financial investment by the United States, or U.S. boots on the ground.  It does, however, require American political leadership, moral leadership even, to bring the parties together to address the larger sources of instability in the region," Affleck said.

The U.S. Treasury Department has stipulated that any U.S. assets of two M23 rebel leaders be frozen because the group uses child soldiers and targets children in the conflict.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Didier from: Gabon
December 20, 2012 2:45 AM
Of couse, the situation in DRC required US leadership.
Since the fallen of Mobutu, Eastern of DRC became a ground of any kind of violence, especially against children, and women.
The UN peacemakers troops presence is not a big help, many soldiers with limited and inappropriate mandate.
Much effort also should be undertaken by US to lead, help or force the power of Kinshasa to have a greater democratization of the national political space.
Democracy works with respect for Human Rights which implies Freedom, Security, Peace, Justice and good governance; but the dictatorship regim works with the Violation of Fundamental Freedoms, Insecurity, Terror, Disorders, Injustice and Bad Governance.

by: David from: Washington DC
December 19, 2012 10:25 PM
Ben Afleck and president Obama did a good job but it’s a small step toward peace and stability of Congo. The World Bank, IMF, G8 countries and mineral&petroleum companies in Congo should invest on the infrastructure commercial such rail road&electricity from Katanga, Mbuji-Mayi, Kinshasa to the terminal port Banana in deep sea which allows DRC improved his economy and control import&export of rich mineral, petroleum and foods. The World Bank said that DRC is too big to build this infrastructure while it does for Eastern, Northern and Southern Africa counties.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs