Over 200 Scholars Appeal to Obama on the DRC

More than 200 Africanist scholars have called on President Obama to take action through the United Nations to protect civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The petition comes at a desperate time in the DRC, where the M23 rebels withdrew from Goma, one of the country’s largest cities, just last week.

Why the DRC will Figure in Confirmation Hearings for the Next Secretary of State

It also comes at a delicate political time in the US, where the departure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is all but certain in the coming weeks and there is a storm gathering around Susan Rice, Obama’s presumed choice for a replacement.  First, Republicans on Capitol Hill grilled her for saying  in the days following Benghazi attacks  that the violence erupted from spontaneous protests (as the CIA at the time believed), rather than a planned act of terrorism.  Now human rights groups and journalists are drawing attention to Rice’s kind remarks about Africa’s dictators, and in particular, accusing her of helping to suppress evidence concerning Rwanda’s backing of M23.  Howard French, a former columnist for the New York Times, raised these concerns in the Atlantic in a detailed piece that has gone viral among Africanists.

The United Nations, through a formal committee reviewing sanctions on the DRC, has issued a series of reports describing Rwandan and Ugandan support for the M23 rebels.  The evidence presents a problem for the US, not only because of its unflagging support for the two US allies, but also because as a Senator, Obama authored an amendment to suspend foreign aid to any country that destabilizes the DRC.

The ACAS Petition to Obama

Organized by the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, the petition calls on President Obama to:

  • Press the Security Council to ensure protection of civilians from further abuse and ensure support for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUC) so that it has adequate resources and mandate to fulfill its protection role.
  • Support a Security Council resolution requiring Rwanda and Uganda to immediately withdraw any support to the M23 armed group.
  • Publicly recommend to the UN Security Council that officials within the Rwandan Ministry of Defense be added to the list of designated individuals targeted by the UNSC Sanctions Committee.
  • Mandate the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to fully implement the Sec 1502 disclosure requirement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requiring U.S. companies to disclose any products they manufacture using conflict minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo or contiguous countries.
  • Press the Congolese government to stop violations being committed by the Congolese army as well as entering into alliances with armed groups, and fully implement the Public Law 109-456: The DRC Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 (the “Obama Law”).
  • End the waiver of Child Soldier sanctions on the Congolese Government and extend the sanctions to include nations that support guerrilla movements like M23 that recruit child soldiers.

You can download the ACAS press release with the text of the petition here.

To add your name to the petition, please contact ACAS.
To post a comment, please include your full name, and preferably your affiliation.

8 thoughts on “Over 200 Scholars Appeal to Obama on the DRC

  1. Carl LeVan

    A coalition of NGOs sent a letter to President Obama on Monday, calling for:

    (1) the appointment of a Presidential Envoy to lead a coordinated U.S. response to the crisis;
    (2) the US to support the appointment of a U.N. Envoy to the Great Lakes, who can then advocate for the imposition of sanctions against violators of the United Nations arms embargo on DRC;
    (3) a cut in all military assistance and suspension of other non-humanitarian aid to the government of Rwanda for its support of the M23 insurgency.

    You can download this important letter here.

  2. Carl LeVan

    Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa on December 11. There are important gaps between the policy he outlined, and the courses of action urged in the above letters. Carson said the US is taking steps to:

    (1) monitor humanitarian needs and mobilize a response, noting that the United States provided more than $110 million in humanitarian assistance for Congolese refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict-affected civilians in Fiscal Year 2012;
    (2) call on the DRC and “neighboring governments” to ensure accountability for M23 leaders who have committed serious human rights abuses and recruited child soldiers. This includes calls to enforce UN sanctions;
    (3) Urging Presidents Kabila (DRC), Kagame (Rwanda), and Museveni (Uganda) to engage in direct talks to address the underlying causes of instability. These include conflict over land, tensions in areas where refugees have returned or may seek to return, armed rebel groups and their support networks, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources;
    (4) “reviewing options for improving the UN’s ability to protect civilians and help implement defined aspects of a potential regional political settlement,” noting the need to “remain realistic” about the existing UN mission;
    (5) urging President Kabila to undertake a credible effort to professionalize and reform the Congolese security forces.

    You can read his full testimony by clicking here.

  3. Veronica Schweyen

    I agree that we must now stop the use of drones especially in Africa, as they are too dangerous to use in the rural populations there. The ethical arguments aginst the use of drones are very strong!

  4. Carl LeVan

    For those of you following the DRC, H.Res. 131 (a non-binding resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives) sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass, was approved by the House Subcommittee on Africa yesterday. The next step would be the full committee on Foreign Affairs, and then the House of Representatives.

    Among other things, the bill would require appointment of a special envoy to the Great Lakes region. You can read more here.

  5. Carl LeVan

    US-based advocacy organizations sent a letter to former Senator Russ Feingold, who has just been appointed Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa. According to the letter, the U.S. and the international community have failed to give sufficient priority to two root causes:

    (1) the failure of DRC’s democratic elections and institutions and
    (2) the absence of a comprehensive regional peace process.

    Unless these central issues are addressed, ongoing international programs to strengthen Congolese security forces, improve governance, promote human rights, and foster sustainable economic development will founder.

    You can read the full text of the letter here.

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