Monday, July 10, 2006

The Year of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Democracy, Security and Saving Lives

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 4:00-5:00, 5:30-7:00

Speakers: Don Yamamoto, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Kenneth Bacon, President, Refugees International
Dr. Rick Brennan, Health Unit Director, International Rescue Committee
Chris Hennemeyer, Regional Director for Africa and MENA, IFES
Rick Neal, Advocate, Refugees International

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is poised to have its first multi-party elections in more than 40 years on July 30. At the Year of the DRC event, Don Yamamoto from the Secretary of State for African Affairs office spoke about the US involvement in UN peacekeeping and election efforts in the DRC. Mr. Yamamoto praised the UN peacekeeping efforts, as well as efforts by other countries (most notably South Africa) to improve conditions and work towards sustainable peace in the DRC. He also called on the international community to fund an adequate and accountable security force leading up to the elections. Finally, he urged the United States Congress to renew efforts with European partners to support the DRC.
Next, Rick Neal of Refugees International spoke about the importance of security in the coming months in the DRC. Mr. Neal illustrated the atrocities being committed all around the DRC, including sporadic fighting, massacres, looting, rape, and other humanitarian tragedies. He called on the US to speed the demobilization and disarming process, and to provide economic opportunities for disarmed fighters. Also, he called on the US to ensure MONUC has the funding it needs so it will not withdraw soon after the elections. Later, Kenneth Bacon, also of Refugees International, reinforced the need to maintain a strong security presence in the DRC, a nation the size of Western Europe. Additionally, Chris Hennemeyer of IFES advocated continued peacekeeping and electoral support efforts in the DRC, saying that the DRC has benefited greatly from international engagement.
Finally, Dr. Rick Brennan of the International Rescue Committee outlined the humanitarian crisis in the DRC, calling it the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. He called for greatly scaled-up humanitarian aid to stop the rapid increase of preventable deaths in the region. Only 2% of deaths are a direct result of violence (people being killed), while most deaths are from preventable diseases or malnutrition. These diseases are indirectly impacted by the violence, as disease can spread faster and treatment is impossible. More security is needed, and humanitarian aid should be scaled up dramatically.

by Adam Perry

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