Conflict Minerals and Congolese People's Priorities
Speech to be delivered by Jeanne Kasongo L.Ngondo of the Shalupe Foundation at the Massachusetts State House, House Chamber on May 27, 2014
Members of the Senate and the House,
And Fellow Citizens of Massachusetts:
On behalf of the Congolese people, I would like to thank the Congo Action Now, Congolese Community of Massachusetts, Congolese Genocide Awareness, Congolese Women's Association of New England, Génération "R", Mwinda Catholic Community, Survivors, Inc., and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom for coming together to raise the profile of the situation in the Congo.
It is a privilege and an honor to be able to address this esteemed body to convey the most pressing concerns of the Congolese people at this time in our history. Although, we are here to discuss conflict minerals and the concerns of the American consumers, I would be remiss if I did not speak to the two most pressing concerns of the Congolese people. The first of these concerns is best expressed in a March 2014 National Geographic feature that recounts an encounter between US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and a few displaced Congolese women in a refugee camp. The author writes:
When Power asked, “What would it take for you to feel safe enough to go home?” the women all tried to speak at once. But, aside from repeating salama (peace), they didn't mention the things one usually hears are needed in Congo, and which these women clearly needed very badly: food, homes, jobs, government. Instead, they were concerned with geopolitics. One by one, they execrated their neighbor Rwanda, whose government has, according to UN investigators and others, backed militias in eastern Congo. They called out presidents and warlords by name.
“We don't want Rwanda to take a single meter of our land,” a woman said. Another got on her knees and pleaded for the international community to put sanctions on Rwanda. An old woman in the back called out, “Makenga and the rest of the leaders should be arrested.”
These Congolese women who could have asked the US Ambassador for anything; asked her for accountability, an end to the impunity and justice. The United States has heard the cries of these Congolese grandmothers and mothers and have begun to act by withholding military aid from its erstwhile ally Rwanda and we implore you to call on Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration to continue to hold its allies accountable and assure that Rwanda and Uganda cease their destructive interventions in the Congo once and for all.
The second concern and the most pressing, is the upcoming 2016 elections which will mark the end of a leadership that lacks legitimacy headed by President Joseph Kabila. According to the Congolese constitution, the president can only serve two five-year terms and Joseph Kabila's second term will end on December 16, 2016. Unfortunately, we are getting strong signals that Kabila will try to extend his stay in power, in spite of the tenets of the constitution and in direct contradiction to the will of the Congolese people. This represents the biggest threat to stability in the country today. This is the most pressing issue to Congolese inside and outside of the DRC. The Obama administration seems to understand this. During Sec of State John Kerry and Special Envoy Russ Feinglod's recent visit to the DRC, they made it clear in no uncertain terms to President Kabila and the Congolese people that Kabila ought to respect the Congolese constitution and step down. According to the State Department’s read out, Secretary of State Kerry said in response to a question regarding President Kabila respecting the constitution and stepping down at the end of his term in 2016 "the United States of America feels very strongly, as do other people, that the constitutional process needs to be respected and adhered to."
Respecting Congo's constitution and supporting the democratic process in the DRC is the most vital question at hand as it relates to peace and stability in the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
I appeal to you to continue to encourage the Obama Administration and the Secretary of State to maintain its current stand and policy which is in alignment with Public Law 109-456, the law that president Obama passed as senator that calls for the US to hold its allies in the region accountable for their destabilizing of the Congo and also calls on the US government to support democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And God bless the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
National Geographic Article
State Department Read Out From John Kerry's Trip to Congo