U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, introduced a bipartisan resolution Thursday addressing the ongoing unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and urging the United States, the government of the DRC, regional stakeholders, and the international community to take advantage of the most promising opportunity in decades to make meaningful progress toward sustainable peace and political reform there. S. Res. 144 was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
"America should play a stronger role in the international community's efforts to achieve peace in the Great Lakes region, to stop the human rights violations being committed against Congolese civilians, and to promote the establishment of a democratic, accountable government in the DRC," Senator Coons said. "We must put an end to the destruction that is plaguing the Central African nation and bring to justice those who are committing heinous human rights abuses. The Administration should act quickly to appoint a Special Envoy to work with regional governments and international partners to help bring peace and stability to the region."
The resolution calls on the Obama Administration to appoint a Special Envoy to:
-Support and strengthen international effort to end conflict in the region; support accountability and justice for human rights violations;
-Expand efforts to develop conflict-free and responsible mining practices;
-Coordinate with international and regional partners to ensure unhindered access to life-saving humanitarian assistance;
-Strengthen the commitment by the DRC and regional actors to end the threat posed by armed groups in the region; and
-Mobilize and lend support to electoral reforms in the DRC with the goal of encouraging free, fair and credible elections in the near-term.
The resolution also calls on countries in the region to end support for non-state armed groups and to cooperate to end illicit trade in conflict minerals, wildlife, and wildlife parts.
Since April 2012, more than 650,000 people have been displaced by violence perpetuated by the M23 rebel group in North Kivu province, which has allegedly benefitted from the support of neighboring states. The crisis triggered by the M23 exacerbated human suffering in this war-torn region of Africa, where sexual and gender based violence, as well as conflict minerals, have fueled decades of conflict driven by a vacuum of proper governance. Estimates show that more than 5.4 million people died from war-related causes in the DRC between 1998-2007 alone, making it the world's deadliest documented conflict since World War II. At the national level, political instability in DRC persists in the aftermath of problematic and disputed elections in 2011.
Senator Coons chaired a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs in April to study opportunities for the U.S. and the international community to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the DRC.
To download the resolution, which has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration, click here: http://coons.senate.gov/download/drc-resolution