In August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, marking the highest level U.S. visit ever to the war-torn region. After witnessing the situation on the ground firsthand, Secretary Clinton returned to the U.S. with an expressed commitment to confront the most pressing needs in the region, specifically addressing the causes of conflict and unconscionable loss of human life.
Two years later, Secretary Clinton is still wavering on her personal commitment to address the underlying drivers of the conflict in eastern Congo. The administration’s current policies reflect a series of ad hoc initiatives but not yet a cohesive U.S. policy. In a new Enough report, “U.S. Congo Policy: Matching Deeds to Words to End the World’s Deadliest War,” Enough Policy Analyst Aaron Hall and Policy Consultant Sasha Lezhnev argue:
The potential for U.S. engagement to end the war in the east is much larger, and with incidents of mass rape and the proliferation of militias continuing, the need is greater than ever. The United States has critical leverage that it can employ in Congo, and President Kabila has renewed interest in deepening the partnership with the Obama administration.
The authors outline an assessment of U.S. policy based on five objectives essential to bolstering peace and stability in Congo:
1. Engaging diplomatically in support of credible elections
2. Protecting civilians and dismantling rebel groups
3. Combating conflict minerals
4. Reforming the security sector
5. Ending impunity
Hall and Lezhnev argue that it is time for the administration to back the secretary’s words and deliver on its promises aimed at bolstering democratic processes and ending violence against civilians in Congo.. The paper’s authors recognize that the secretary’s initial leadership on Congo policy dramatically impacted the urgency of action in the region, and they urge her to follow up on her commitments by taking the lead on a cohesive Congo.
The administration and, notably, the high-level special envoy to the Great Lakes region, expected to be appointed soon, can have a critical impact in the region. Addressing the root causes of the conflict, however, will take a prioritized effort to end one of the most destructive and violent conflicts of our generation.
Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Heal Africa hospital in eastern Congo (AP)