“Here we are on Capitol Hill – where countless receptions, countless causes, and countless speeches take place. But there is only one deadliest war in the world, and that is in Congo.” So began remarks by Enough Co-founder John Prendergast at a reception last night featuring actress and activist Robin Wright and Enough's Congo-based researcher Fidel Bafilemba. Wright and Bafilemba, who recently traveled together in eastern Congo, are in Washington this week to meet with legislators, key policy makers, and activists about U.S. efforts to help end the conflict.
“Having gone – not just hearing about it – to go and actually experience the story that you hear, that you read about, it’s unimaginable to us,” said Wright. “The Congolese people have no concept of being able to access security and protection, to be able to access the feeling of ‘I don’t have a fear for my life every morning when I wake up.’” Wright presented her moving video diaries from her trip, which includes excerpts from interviews she conducted with Congolese women.
“All mentioned Hillary Clinton,” Wright said of the people she met. “She went where I went. She spoke to the same people. She heard the same stories. She was just as impassioned. ‘This is the unfinished business of the 21st century,’ she said, and she felt it at her core. Let’s finish it. Time is wasting. People are dying,” Wright said. She added that it is “our duty” to address the link between the militias that control the mines and consumer electronics.
“Never underestimate your own power,” said Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), commending the activists in the audience for mobilizing to push for Congress to pass the conflict minerals provision of the Dodd-Frank bill last summer and for now turning attention to the regulation process at the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We need people on the outside” to help generate the political will so that elected officials can address the conflict in Congo, Rep. McDermott said. “Without your efforts, this would not have happened.”
Senator John Boozman (R-AK) highlighted the bipartisan nature of Congress’ work on Congo. He commended advocates for their attention to Congo and encouraged further engagement, especially through the crucial implementation phase of the law. “These issues don’t have a constituency [in the United States],” he said. “So we need you to be the voice.”
The reception on Capitol Hill was the culmination of a full day of meetings with legislators and at the White House attended by Wright, Bafilemba, Prendergast, and members of Enough’s policy team and Raise Hope for Congo campaign. Global Witness, Free the Slaves, and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable co-hosted the reception.
The narrative of the night was one of celebration for the success of the Dodd-Frank bill but also of commitment to see the implementation of the legislation, by calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue their regulations for industries.
In his impassioned remarks, Enough researcher Fidel Bafilemba, a native of Congo, highlighted the opportunity of the moment. “I think we have a chance, with this momentum of the legislation to follow through it,” he said. “I have come with a declaration from 11 heads of states in the central African region. With this declaration, we are waiting for you to make sure this legislation is followed through. I do believe in you.”