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  • Morning Bell: What's at Stake in the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Ben Affleck testifies on Capitol Hill. (Credit: Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom)

    Hollywood actor Ben Affleck brings his star power to Congress today to testify on the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its implications for the United States. Affleck will be joined at the hearing by Heritage’s James Jay Carafano, who will explain why the Obama administration should rethink support for the U.N. peacekeeping mission there. This is the second hearing in two weeks on the issue.

    Affleck’s activism in the DRC has helped elevate awareness about the country’s instability. Today’s hearing before the House Armed Services Committee is an opportunity for Americans to learn more about what’s happening in the central African nation.

    >>> Watch a webcast of the hearing live, beginning at 10 a.m. ET

    In a new report, Heritage’s Morgan Lorraine Roach and Brett D. Schaefer explain the country’s troubled history and the plight of DRC citizens, who are among the world’s poorest and suffer from high infant mortality and low life expectancy.

    The current crisis stems from the mid-1990s clash between DRC and neighbors Rwanda and Uganda. The most prominent rebel group officially disbanded after a March 23, 2009, peace deal, that was supposed to integrate rebel troops into the Congolese army. Earlier this year, DRC president Joseph Kabila ordered the arrest of former rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda, prompting his former troops to again rebel under the new name “M23” in reference to the March 23 peace deal. M23 launched an offensive in eastern Congo and, just last month, occupied and later withdrew from eastern Congo’s largest city of Goma.

    Failure of the ill-trained and unprofessional Congolese armed forces to stop the rebels’ assault reflects poorly on the U.N. peacekeeping mission. The U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as MONUSCO, has a budget of an annual $1.4 billion. The U.N. peacekeepers are charged with protecting civilians, but as the recent advance of M23 reveals, it has failed to effectively carry out its mission.

    To make matters worse, Kabila’s government has used violence, corruption, and cronyism to maintain power. Yet the international community continues to endorse his government and its support, supplemented by U.N. peacekeepers, allows Kabila to disregard his governance and security responsibilities.

    What should the United States do? In the last fiscal year, American taxpayers provided more than $110 million in humanitarian assistance for the Congolese people. There are five steps the Obama administration should consider immediately, according to Roach and Schaefer:

    • Acknowledge that the DRC government lacks legitimacy and cannot deliver on its commitments. The U.S. should press Kabila to decentralize authority and transfer power to provincial and local governments.
    • Enforce sanctions on supporters of rebel groups. The recent cut of $200,000 in security assistance to Rwanda for supporting rebels is a welcome sign that the U.S. is prepared to enforce its policy.
    • Encourage regional economic integration. Rwanda and Uganda have much to gain from a stable eastern DRC, particularly one with greater autonomy that would be open to trade and investment.
    • Diminish the size of MONUSCO, limit its mandate, and establish a framework for terminating the mission. It’s time for the United Nations to transition its work and acknowledge it’s not the proper force for implementing peace in eastern Congo.
    • Support the creation of an African Union peacekeeping force. An African-led strategy helped address the dismal situation in Somalia and could bring regional attention to resolving the DRC crisis.

    It’s time the United States made these much-needed changes to more effectively address the plight of the Congolese people.

    Read More:

    The U.S. Must Rethink its Approach to the Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Index of Economic Freedom: Democratic Republic of Congo

    Quick Hits:

    • An internal State Department inquiry into the September 11 terror attack in Benghazi blames bureaucrats for “grossly inadequate” security. Government officials, however, are likely to escape punishment.
    • Speaker John Boehner’s latest fiscal cliff offer is bad, but Heritage’s Alison Acosta Fraser reminds us who is really to blame for creating this needless, high-stakes drama: President Obama.
    • A proposal floated by President Obama to change the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security is forcing “Democrats to do some painful soul-searching,” according to Politico.
    • A federal appeals court in Washington, DC, handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate.
    • The Media Research Center released its annual awards for the year’s worst reporting.
    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    19 Responses to Morning Bell: What's at Stake in the Democratic Republic of Congo

    1. glynnda says:

      Rob, I agree with Heritage's suggestions regarding helping Africa to stabilize. I really think the presence of the UN causes more chaos than good and the entire organization is disgustingly corrupt. They breed corruption wherever they go. ____I like the idea of Africa working to create a Continent-wide union, setting up economic and military stability, etc. This is the road to peace and the only one, not some world force stepping in and continuing to treat them like children.

    2. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Remember the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in the 1990s? Dutch peacekeepers were as useless as tits on a bull when it came to protecting the people of Srebrenicia. The UN is the League of Nations of the new millennium.

    3. Anonymous says:

      Um. no. We can't be the world's saviors when we are in a debt crisis of our own. Pay down our own debt first, generate a surplus, and then and only then consider sending one penny of aid outside of our own borders. Those of us who feel a humanitarian obligation to support foreigners can and should be encouraged to do so privately.

    4. Juan Martinez says:

      At last, I agree with all of your points. However, I think there needs to be a way to foster a functioning central government that is not run by thugs and kleptocrats — declaring it illegitimate is not enough, and does nothing to help the millions of people suffering in the anarchic conditions of the DRC. And calling for the AU to solve this problem presumes a functionality of that organization that, sadly, does not exist. Your plan fails to identify proscriptive solutions that can be made to work. Clearly, there is no simple solution to the humanitarian catastrophe of the DRC, but having our nation, the leader of the free world, turns its back on this situation does not seem to be the right thing to do.

    5. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Our own country is going to hell in a hand basket and yet some left-wing liberal Hollywood type is suggesting helping another third world nation? How much of his own money is Affleck sending to DRC? Because like so many on the left, they want to use "other people's money", not theirs. We cannot continue to support the world. We must look to our nation's needs first, otherwise who will support us when we find outselves in the same condion? But perhaps that's exacly what the left wants!

    6. chyatt says:

      "Reflects poorly on the U.N. peace keeping mission" – no way. I'm sure these poor people haven't forgotten the peace keeping mission that involved machetes being used to chop off peoples arms in Rwanda while the U.N. peace keepers stood around and watched. The U.N. is a sham. It has not prevented any violence against mankind. And isn't it funny that the balance of some having firearms (rebels, who could care less about the laws of their country) never quite works out for the ones who are unarmed and innocent. For those who don't get the point, my point is: When you negotiate from a position that does not involve power, your are not negotiating at all, you are conceding. Boehner might want to contemplate that.

    7. PaulE says:

      Here's a novel thought. How about we let the people of the country sort out their internal problems first before we rush in with more money and prescriptions for the region. Yes, it is a laudable goal to want to bring lasting peace and stability to a region of Africa sorely in need of both, but we have to also address some realities. We cannot buy either through the continued funneling of money to largely corrupt regimes.

      Secondly, we cannot pick winners and losers in any internal conflict of this kind. Forcing what we view as the correct solution on a population either not prepared to accept such proposals or actively opposed to any outside interference in their internal affairs will never work long-term.

      Thirdly, we have enough serious issues on our own plate at home. We are effectively broke with any foreign aid consisting of largely borrowed money. Do you really advocate the American taxpayer borrowing more money from China to send it to the leaders of this foreign country? We need to clean up our own house first, before we try to continue helping other nations. Especially ones that may neither want nor accept what we are proposing.

      America needs to focus on its priorities and to be brutally honest, monetary or political intervention in this particular case should not rank very high on the must-do list we have to address.

    8. chyatt says:

      So let's try this. Since the group monitoring these comments seem to have a problem with "words selected" I will try again using only PC words. The U.N. is full of UN-intellectuals who have no impact on ones safety. That group stood by during and event that starts with a "R" and ends with an "A". Hint it's a country. And watched as non-4 legged animals were relieved of stuff attached to them.

    9. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      What in the world would make you think Barry Obama would not support a corrupt government. The guys from Chicago, his daddy was a revolutionary and all his friends follow the communist manifesto…

    10. Jeff says:

      The people of Africa are constantly referred to as being in "plight".

      Nothing has changed in the 64 years of my lifetime following program after program, US dollar after US dollar. Given that result, what makes their plight America's job to fix? While I'm at it, you can throw in Haiti as well. They can't seem to fix it, we haven't been able to fix, so what's the magic this time? To get involved here is not "conservative" thinking. There's no basis for involvement.

    11. Jeanne Zook says:

      There is a lot of unseen, underhanded collusion and corruption below the surface in the Congo conflict. Joseph Kabila had reaped billions in corruption from the mining in the Eastern part of the country, and really has no interest in seeing the quagmire stopped. He is himself a Ruandan and does not have the interests of the Congo uppermost. Add to that that he stole the election and is an illegitimate ruler. The people of that region are being sacrificed to his brutal machinations. The Ruandan generals are "sitting pretty" with their M23 agents running roughshod over the countryside.

    12. TheseusRex says:

      The United States has pounded billions down many rat holes in Africa, with no measurable benefit: some groups are simply not "helpable". Let's stop wasting money there. Regardless of how wonderful we think we (and our money) might be, the northern third of Africa is already lost to radical Arabs and the remainder is simply not worth a bother. Ben Affleck has an ego problem; somebody send him home. Unfortunately, the congress thinks it's a big deal and very good press to get a big deal Hollywood actor in and milk the (more-than-willing media) for all manner of ego-boosting attention; all at our expense, of course. Frankly they are a sick and useless bunch and we really should start all over with better people.

    13. RDP says:

      What the authors of this piece missed is that the primary account of what is occurring in the DRC, and the strength of its president is George Soros.

      Nearly a dozen of his organizations, some with ties to Podesta's group here in DC, are working to lock international public opinion against the DRC, while other Soros concerns continue to fund the countries supporting rebels in the DRC through mineral purchases.

      $21 Trillion of minerals lay in the DRC, most heading to GS should he finally be successful in his 20 year effort to over through this weak democracy to a socialist state.

      Worse still is the culture of corruption among its leaders. However, I submit that it would be better for developed nations to invest in a mentoring relationship, help shore this country up against its bold enemies, and assist them in sitting their old way aside in favor of a brighter more secure future.

      Heritage has an honest plan. Now lets see what lands on the POTUS desk from Podesta.

    14. Gitfiddle says:

      On a list of 185 thinks that are priority items .. the DRC is about 227.. But it does divert attention away from the top 10.

    15. awkingsley says:

      Why should the U.S. get involved? Every time we get involved anywhere on the globe, it just causes more problems in those countries, and the people of those countries where we intervened like Americans even less than before. Are Americans stupid? Get the CIA and our military bases out of the majority of foreign countries, and protect our own country instead of destroying our reputation and leaving our own country vulnerable to land invasion by large foes, the Chinese and the Russians. The Chinese want Americans disarmed. What a smart move on the part of the Chinese, since we step ever closer to conflict with them! If I were Chinese, I would want the U.S. to be a really "soft target" myself – a gun free zone. The Chinese are much smarter than Obama and the rest of the Liberals. They aren't just sob sisters; they have a very clever agenda.

    16. varptr says:

      There are roughly 20 things recognized as necessary to spawn the industrial revolution. Since most of these things, like ability to keep metal from rusting, or maintaining a moral society, or being free of conflict, or simply preserving books, since these things are missing in many tropical countries, solutions have to be much more oriented around simple ag and mineral trade solutions. Air conditioning and wind power might be a better start than all the finger pointing, pointy headed double talk, and huffy notions aimed at creating some abstract uber-philosophy.

    17. decentralization is the only way the DRC is an empire not a country any unity it posseses has been legislated not actualized the UN is inept

    18. wallyblu says:

      "The US should press Kabila to decentralize".

      How can the Obama administration recommend decentralizaetion when they are trying to centralize all power to the Federal Government here?

    19. wallyblu says:

      "The US should press Kabila to decentralize"?

      How can the Obama Administration ask another country to decentralize when they are doing everything in their power to centralize the United States?

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