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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today, on behalf of Senator Brownback, Senator Durbin, and Senator DEWINE to introduce the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act.

As we try to conclude our business for the year here in the Senate, we are in the midst of sharp debates on a large number of issues. In the foreign policy arena alone, the Administration and Congress are consumed with nurturing a political process and defeating insurgents in Iraq, attempting to halt proliferation by Iran and North Korea, and trying to end the bloodshed in Darfur, Sudan.

But there is another country embroiled in conflict that has not yet received the high-level attention or resources it needs. It's the Democratic Republic of Congo, and right now it is in the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe.

An International Rescue Committee report from 2004 found that 31,000 people were dying in the Congo each month and 3.8 million--3.8 million--people had died in the previous 6 years. This means that this conflict, which still smolders and burns in some regions, has cost more lives than any other conflict since World War II.

Beyond the humanitarian catastrophe, resolving the problems in the Congo will be critical if Africa is to achieve its promise. The country, which is the size of Western Europe, lies at the geographic heart of Africa and borders every major region across the continent. If left untended, Congo's tragedy will continue to infect Africa--from North to South; from East to West.

I believe that the United States can make a profound difference in this crisis. According to international aid agencies, there are innumerable cost-effective interventions that could be quickly undertaken--such as the provision of basic medical care, immunization and clean water--that could save thousands of lives. On the political front, sustained U.S. leadership could fill a perilous vacuum.

The bill that we are introducing here today is an important step on the long road towards bringing peace and prosperity to the Congo. I am proud to be a part of a collaborative, bipartisan effort with some of the Senate's leading voices on Africa--Senators Brownback, Durbin and DeWine.

This bill establishes 14 core principles of U.S. policy across a range of issues; authorizes a 25 percent increase in U.S. assistance for the Democratic Republic of the Congo; calls for a Special Envoy to resolve the situation in Eastern Congo; and urges the Administration to use its voice and vote at the United Nations Security Council to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force that is providing security in parts of the Congo.

The legislation has been endorsed by a number of faith-based and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations, including some with extensive field operations in Congo: CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Global Witness, International Crisis Group, International Rescue Committee, and Oxfam America. I ask unanimous consent that these letters of support be printed in the Record.

I want to stress something before closing. We are under no illusion that enacting the policies in this bill would be a panacea for Congo's many ills. But the one thing we do know is that the one way to ensure that a complex problem will not be resolved is to accept the status quo.

The other thing we know is that status quo in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unacceptable--unacceptable to the women and children caught up in the crossfire, unacceptable to the civilians being felled by preventable disease, unacceptable to a continent that is making great strides, and unacceptable to our country, the United States, which has the financial and diplomatic resources to make a profound difference.

I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration to enacting this bill and working to promote peace and prosperity in the Congo.

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