The Devastating Crisis in Eastern Congo: John Prendergast’s Testimony on the Hill

 

Weeks after M23’s takeover of Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo faces a humanitarian and political crisis. On Tuesday, December 11, John Prendergast spoke before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on the cycles of conflict in Congo and flawed peace process. Other expert witnesses included Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson, Steve Hege, and Mvemba Dizolele.

Prendergast discussed the need for a solution that encompasses both the underlying economic and political concerns. “A political framework for Congo must be agreed upon that restores public confidence and brings back the viability of the Congolese state, while ensuring that further rebellion does not ensue,” Prendergast said. As a result, he recommended that the U.S. take the following actions to support peace in the Congo:

  • Appoint a presidential envoy
  • Call for a U.N. envoy to the Great Lakes
  • Support robust U.N. sanctions
  • Suspend certain U.S. assistance to any government supporting conflict and obstructing peace
  • Call a high-level summit on responsible investment in the Great Lakes region

Steve Hege, the former coordinator of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, detailed Rwanda’s strategic involvement in the M23 rebellion and recent expansion. “To a considerable degree, the reality of the relation between M23 and the Rwandan army goes far beyond simple external support, as M23 does not exist separately from Rwanda as an autonomous entity,” he said.

Assistant Secretary Carson conceded that a credible body of evidence corroborates key findings of that the Rwandan government is providing M23 with significant logistical and military support.  Yet, Ambassador Carson did not call for further sanctions on Rwanda, instead arguing that the current negotiations process is sufficient. Subcommittee chairman Smith and other committee members questioned the efforts of the international community to hold Rwanda accountable for its collaboration with the M23. Subcommittee member Tom Marino’s question to Ambassador Carson resonates. "How many people have to die before you stop the negotiations and get serious about this?"

C-SPAN captured the whole hearing, which you can watch here.

Photo: U.S. Capitol (AP)

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