In the Wall Street Journal today, Cindy McCain, the wife of former presidential candidate and Arizona senator John McCain, authored an op-ed highlighting the crisis in eastern Congo. Mrs. McCain has traveled to the region numerous times since 1994, most recently late last month. She writes that the United States should lead efforts to save lives in Congo, further noting:
Only the international community and the struggling government of the Democratic Republic of Congo can restore real order to the country. But until then, the United States — the single largest contributor of food aid to these people — must make a choice. Will we walk away and let hundreds of thousands die of slow starvation, or will we push our aid package even harder?
Mrs. McCain is asking for American leadership. Such leadership is critical. However, her piece does not ask for American leadership in helping to find an end to the conflict. In fact, it seems to pass such efforts off to others. The World Food Program does incredible work, and must be supported. However, Mrs. McCain’s call to address the humanitarian situation in eastern Congo without addressing the presence of war in the region is worrisome. America’s support to civilians in eastern Congo must go beyond food aid; it must include protecting civilians from indiscriminate killings, and women and girls from sexual violence. It must work to end impunity and to address the root causes of decades of violence. Mrs. McCain’s piece draws crucial attention to the situation in eastern Congo, but those who are pushed to action by her words must work toward stopping the violence as well as stopping starvation.