Project Africa @ The State Department

Originally posted Jan 4, 2011 6:41 PM by Project Africa   [ updated Jan 4, 2011 6:49 PM ]

December 15th, 2010

Following the success of Project Africa’s Congo Week Event  (click here to learn about the event), PA president, Skye Dobson, was invited to join a delegation of Dear Hillary Campaign members to meet with Hillary Clinton’s ambassador Melanne Verveer at the State Department in D.C.  The meeting was scheduled to build upon the momentum generated by the Dear Hillary Campaign (which sent over 16,000 postcards to Hillary Clinton on her birthday to call upon the Obama administration to enforce the provisions of Public Law 109-456) and intensify efforts to put an end to the ongoing atrocities in the Congo.

Ambassador Verveer affirmed the State Department’s commitment to keeping the DRC high on the US agenda. She stated that the State Department is “in your camp” and has been “engaged consistently” with issues affecting the DRC at “levels that would blow your mind.” The Ambassador expressed her deep regret for the brutality endured by the Congolese population and noted Clinton’s outrage at the atrocities committed in close proximity to UN peacekeepers and the ongoing impunity for perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the country.

Rick Schwartz, of the Africa Bureau, detailed the efforts of the US Defense Department to provide military training  to DRC soldiers and the high priority it places upon strengthening the country’s justice system.  He admitted progress has been slow and that efforts require greater commitment from the Congolese government. Both he and Ambassador Verveer emphasized the intense and multi-pronged efforts being undertaken by the State Department.

The delegation asked a series of questions related to the failures of MONUSCO, particularly as they relate to the hundreds of rapes committed in the village of Luvungi in July, just 20 miles from a MONUSCU camp. Rick Schwartz assured those in attendance that an investigation had been launched into the egregious failure on the part of the peacekeepers and agreed that there is clearly a lot of room for improvement. He reported that peacekeepers have been ordered to increase foot patrols in the region to gain the trust and confidence of the locals and that the training of peacekeepers must be enhanced to ensure civilians are adequately protected.

The delegation also discussed the State Department’s role in minimizing the role conflict minerals play in the DRC.  Dr. Laurie Gagne expressed her concern that the suppliers of conflict minerals are well know and yet  are not being sanctioned. The Ambassador discussed the Dodd-Frank Act and the State Department’s commitment to ensuring its provisions are upheld.

Congolese members of the delegation discussed their experiences at home and those of their family and friends. They expressed concern over the security of people in the north following efforts to run the LRA out of Uganda – an effort they say has resulted in the LRA terrorizing those in DRC’s north. They also reaffirmed Dr. Gagne’s assertion that the suppliers of conflict minerals in the DRC are well known yet act with impunity.

In the end, the Ambassador thanked the delegation for their commitment and described them as representative of “the best of civil society.” She concluded by stating that the State Department is not satisfied with the state of affairs in the DRC, but that it was not for a lack of trying that such affairs persist.

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