The United States Senate unanimously adopted a resolution this week calling on the United States, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), regional stakeholders, and the international community to deepen their engagement in the pursuit of meaningful progress toward political reforms in the DRC and sustainable peace in the region. U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, led the bipartisan resolution.
"The United States can and should be playing a stronger role in the international community's efforts to achieve peace in the Great Lakes region, stop the human rights violations being committed against Congolese civilians, and promote the establishment of a democratic, accountable government in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Senator Coons said. "In adopting this resolution, the Senate is voicing its support for the commitments made by the signatories to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, and urging the United States, regional partners, and others in the international community to do more to help those commitments take effect."
The resolution welcomed the appointment of former Senator Russ Feingold as the United States' Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, and called on the Obama Administration to:
Support and strengthen international efforts 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 called on the government of Democratic Republic of Congo to:
Engage in meaningful and inclusive electoral reforms, and hold impartially administered local and provincial elections as soon as possible; and
Undertake significant security reforms to support lasting stability and renew efforts to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate rebel troops while ensuring those rebels responsible for human rights violations are held accountable for their crimes.
The resolution also calls on the governments of the Great Lakes region of Africa to "immediately halt and prevent any and all forms of support to non-state armed groups."
The resolution can be downloaded as a PDF here: http://coons.senate.gov/download/drc-resolution
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.
The resolution was cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).