Washington, D.C — Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights joined 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking the Obama Administration to appoint a U.S. envoy as well as the appointment of a U.N. envoy to help in diffusing the crisis engulfing eastern Congo. Advancements from the militia group known as M23 continue to undermine Central Africa's ability to reach its full potential in the region.
During a subcommittee hearing of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights yesterday, Ranking Member Bass said:
"For too long, the DRC has been ravaged by instability and war. For two decades, Eastern Congo has been under-siege by armed groups. Yesterday, it was the National Congress for the Defense of the People. Today it is M23. What will it be tomorrow? Will we stand by and allow a fragile peace to be held together by empty promises?," said Bass. "The violence, the rapes, the child soldiers, the murders must be brought to an end."
Below please find the full text of the letter sent to President Obama.
President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are following the unfolding conflict in Eastern Congo with deep concern. The State Department's diplomatic team has done an admirable job in helping secure M23's pullback from Goma and other towns of North Kivu while negotiations proceed.
We write to you to address a common concern that you have noted for years – that M23's formation and advance on Goma highlights the fact that Central Africa will not be able to reach its potential until the cycle of poor governance, violence, and proxy wars in Eastern Congo and the bordering areas in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi come to an end and a lasting economic and security architecture are put in place.
M23's formation and inexcusable military advance, supported by Rwanda and to a lesser extent Uganda, is only the latest chapter in Central Africa's conflict. We feel the systemic problems that drive the cyclical fighting can be broken – but only if the political leaders of Central African country governments take decisive and sustained action and the international community maintains a heavy focus on these issues with sustained high level leadership.
We believe the incremental steps now being taken by outside leadership must be pushed to a higher level with ongoing daily leadership from the international community. The U.S. should appoint its own Presidential Envoy and, at the United Nations, advocate strongly for the appointment of a U.N. Envoy to Central Africa and Eastern Congo as well as encourage the African Union to appoint an envoy. These envoys should work together on leading the creation of a sustainable economic and security architecture that ensures peace in the region.
The U.N. Envoy should be a former head of state with the security and economic experience required and should be prepared for sustained engagement.
In addition to finalizing the end of the M23 rebellion, we believe it is imperative that these three envoys work on several concrete steps and not relent until they are accomplished. The U.N. envoy should lead this effort and the approach should be inclusive with governments, international organizations, civil society, religious and ethnic groups all participating, each with proportional representation from women.
These groups should work to accomplish the following:
- Carrying out justice for those individuals under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Without the arrests of indicted international criminals, there will not be peace in the region. This has been avoided to date because of some perceived collateral consequences of arrests – years later, these ICC-indicted criminals are leading new war insurgencies. It is time they were arrested and faced justice.
- Levying full-time pressure on the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighboring governments to carry out systemic security sector reform. The elements of "SSR" have been discussed for years. Some steps have been taken in the DRC with positive results.
- Security sector reform should be instituted with the full energies of the DRC and neighboring governments and fully supported—with expertise, training and funds—from the international community.
- Securing the borders between the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.
- Disbanding militias in the Eastern Congo and bordering countries and addressing countries' existential concerns by facilitating a process the ensures the respect and safety of all minorities in the DRC that meet international standards.
- Ending the black market for natural resources within the region, including conflict minerals, a large portion of which are transiting through Rwanda with Rwanda's assistance.
- Establishing a forum for ongoing dialogue and communications between MONUSCO and the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi to rebuild a relationship of trust and respect, the lack of which has been so damaging to regional progress towards peace.
- Formalizing a single forum to coordinate international aid and require aid accountability – a forum that includes not only traditional donor countries, but also less traditional donors like China and Angola, as well as the IMF, World Bank and others. Coordinated and transparent aid is critical for success.
Finally, we ask you to frankly and thoroughly communicate to the Rwandan government the responsibilities of the U.S. State Department to accurately classify military organizations that take on certain activities as "armed groups" in your Annual Human Rights Report. The participation of parts of the Rwandan Defense Forces in mineral smuggling and Rwanda's ongoing support of non-state militias not only violates international law but also puts the whole Rwandan economy at risk.
Many think such a classification of parts or all of the RDF as an armed group is well-documented and justified. If such a determination were made it would have severe consequences for the Rwandan economy. The black market for smuggled minerals and other natural resources is well known to be trafficked by groups within the Rwandan military, and this black market is destabilizing Eastern Congo – and creating a security and livelihood risk for neighboring countries and all Rwandans.
We appreciate the State Department's excellent work in facilitating the retreat of M23 from Goma and continuing to push for solutions to the immediate security situation.
We look forward to your attention to this matter and your response,
Michael Capuano Barbara
McGovern Brad Miller