Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reminder: Amnesty Rally Today

Amnesty is holding a rally today in front of the White House to urge the U.S. to support additional peacekeeping assistance to the DR Congo. See their flyer, here.

The U.S. can and should be doing much more to help the people of the Congo. In my opinion, there are several clear demands that demonstrators can make, particularly of the incoming administration.
1) We can and should be providing much more assistance to the people and organizations providing relief in eastern Congo.
2) We can and should be doing much more to discourage the epidemic of rape in the east, and we can and should be doing much more to help the women and girls who have been victimized by the sexual violence.
3) We should urge the U.S. to support Belgium's proposal that the UN force take control of the mines that provide the rebels with their funds. By seizing the mines, the UN forces will not only take away the rebels' main means of support, but will remove the rebels' main motive for undertaking the rebellion in the first place.
4) We should apply clear pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to stop interfering in the affairs of the DRC. They are attuned to international opinion and amenable to pressure.
5) We should, to the extent that we can, assist the DRC military in developing a competent, human-rights respecting force capable of administering the east.
6) We should support civil society institutions that pressure the Congolese government to obey the rule of law and administer the Congo's mineral wealth in the interests of her people.

We should not forget that the U.S. has a historical responsibility to the people of the Congo. It was during the 31-year rule of Mobutu, installed and supported by the U.S. during the Cold War, that the Congo's entire state administration and national infrastructure disintegrated. Mobutu's legacy--which is in part our responsibility--is the political and military vacuum that has resulted in the chaos we see today. It was during the Clinton Administration that the Congo's transition to democracy was derailed, in part because of ill-advised U.S. policy decisions. And later in that decade, it was the Clinton Administration's uncritical support of the post-genocide Rwandan government that led it to support Rwanda in its 1996 and 1998 invasions of the Congo. We are still emerging from the wreckage of those wars.

We should also give credit where it is due. We are belatedly helping the Congo; we are, for example, the biggest financial contributor to MONUC. And we continue to provide some amount of bilateral assistance to Congo under USAID. But we owe it to the people of Congo to do much more, not so much because of what we have done to them, but because of how much potential good our actions can do. Congo is not under some global curse to remain wretched forever. A Congo at peace, under a modestly competent administration, would be an enormous gift to the future of Africa. Taking up that cause could save more lives; it could end more suffering; and it could give more hope than any other humanitarian effort we might undertake today.

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