(At the request of Mr. Reid, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the Record.) -- (Senate - October 26, 2007)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today, President Bush is meeting with President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC.
This meeting is very important. The DRC symbolizes the hope that so many Africans have for the future of their continent. The country is also emblematic of so many of the challenges facing Africa.
Stabilizing the DRC and fostering democracy are high priorities for American objectives in Africa. Given the country's size, efforts at political and economic reform, and wealth of natural resources, it is imperative that we support the Congolese Government to end more than a decade of warfare and several decades of unaccountable and nontransparent government.
For this reason, I attached an amendment to the 2006 Iraq supplemental appropriations bill, together with Senator Leahy, that provided $13.2 million to the Congo, including $8.2 million for military reform and $5 million to support free and fair elections. In December 2006, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act passed into law. I was proud to have introduced this legislation, which authorized $52 million in U.S. assistance for the Congo, called for a special envoy to resolve ongoing violence, and urged the administration to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force.
Unfortunately, the administration has ignored the call by Congress to appoint a special envoy, and it has done little to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force which is working to stabilize the eastern part of the Congo.
Over the past several months, there have been reports of the mobilization of military forces in the eastern Congo. These reports are deeply disturbing. It is my hope that all Congolese leaders will recommit themselves to the search for peace in this part of the country. The pursuit of military solutions in the eastern part of the country will inevitably prove elusive and will only yield more bloodshed and misery for the civilian population.
The seriousness of the situation in eastern Congo was recently highlighted by a devastating report about the escalation of sexual violence against women in the region. For this reason, I wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rice earlier this month to express concern about the escalation of sexual violence in eastern DRC. Specifically, I asked the Secretary to respond to nine questions concerning steps that the administration is taking to help end the sexual violence and make the perpetrators accountable. To date, I have not received a reply to my letter. For the DRC's transition to democratic governance to be successful, the U.S. and its partners will have to intensify their commitment to work with the Congolese Government to enhance security, resolve conflicts, and spur the country's social and economic reconstruction.
Despite the success of last year's elections, the first in 40 years, the international community must be actively engaged in the country for the foreseeable future not only to bring an end to the conflict in the east but to assist in the emergence of institutions that will ensure accountability and economic development. It is a sobering fact that nearly 80 percent of the country's 56 million people live in absolute poverty and more than 70 percent are undernourished.
At the same time, the Kabila government must be encouraged to adopt inclusive and transparent political processes, involving opposition parties and civil society organizations. Moreover, I welcome the return of American investors to the DRC, to help develop and add value to the country's natural resources. It is imperative, however, that American businesses, as well as investors from every other country, especially China, commit to a zero tolerance for corruption while implementing effective measures to preserve the nation's environment.
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