JOHN HEFFERNAN: Good morning, if we could take our seats, we’re about to begin. For those of you that are using head sets Channel 5 is English and Channel 6 is French. If you cannot hear me then we have a problem; and I’m speaking English. For those of you who I did not meet last night, my name is John Heffernan and I am the Director of The Genocide Prevention Initiative here at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. On behalf of The Congo Global Action and the museum we’d like to extend a warm welcome to this conference, Connect for Congo. Here at the museum we seek to honor the millions of people that perished in the Holocaust by teaching millions about unchecked genocide or unchecked hatred and preventing genocide and related crimes against humanity. Since 2003 the museum has been monitoring the crisis in the Congo; a crisis triggered by the Rwanda genocide that as we all know has claimed millions of lives. This unprecedented conference, bringing together organizations like yourselves and individuals from around the globe, provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness of the conflict and to educate those like us who are committed to the Congo to work for hope and peace in the DRC. This morning it’s my privilege to introduce to you the Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Sara Bloomfield.
SARA BLOOMFIELD: Thank you John, it is a privilege to be here. It is really an honor to welcome you to our museum. The word museum is really not quite an apt description for us. We’re a very unique kind of museum. We’re a memorial museum. We like to call ourselves a living memorial. We are situated here on The National Mall in Washington, D.C. between two of our nation’s monuments to freedom and justice, The Jefferson and Washington Memorials, putting us in a very unique position to bear witness to the fragility and vulnerability of democracy, the institutions to democracy and to society in general.
One of the founders of this institution, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel said, when he founded this institution a memorial unresponsive to the future would violate the memory of the past. In doing so he felt, as John just said, that the most important way to honor the victims of the past would be to make this institution a living memorial and save lives in the future. In doing so he founded what we call our Committee on Conscience, which is our program to prevent genocide in the present and the future. He defined this mandate as one of alerting the national conscience, influencing policy makers, and stimulating worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity.
As part of this mandate I recently traveled to Rwanda, which as we all know, suffered a horrific genocide in 1994, ironically, just a year after this museum opened. One of the consequences of the world’s failure to prevent or respond to that genocide was this new conflict which was set in motion in neighboring Congo. I continued my journey to Rwanda to the Congo to see first hand what had happened there and the unimaginable violence that had been spawned as a result of our world’s failure. My brief time there underscored the devastating reach of genocide. I mean even I’ll just pause for a moment to see that the Holocaust, something that we say ended in 1945, still reverberates in the world today. Rwanda did not of course end in 1994, and today it is an estimated over five million people have died in Eastern Congo.
I found myself asking over and over again what if the world had responded to Rwanda. Could these lives have been saved? At this museum, we tell the story of how six million Jews and others were systematically murdered in the Holocaust and the Holocaust was possible for many reasons; many, many reasons but it is stated in the museum’s founding documents, because the Germans and their collaborators, and they had many, many collaborators and I quote, “succeeded in dividing, in separating, in splitting human society, nation against nation, Christian against Jew, young against old, and not enough people cared.” This museum is dedicated to educating people all over the world about this history but even more so to building a constituency that cares and speaks out when people are threatened with genocide or crimes against humanity today. In the 1930s and 40s, the Jews of Europe were simply abandoned by the world. Today, this museum is extremely proud to be a part of this conference and we are asking you to learn more and to raise your voices about the people of Congo so that neither they nor other peoples will ever be abandoned by the world again. Thank you for your work today and in the future.
JOHN HEFFERNAN: Now I’d like to introduce Father Rocco Puopolo, who is the executive chair of The Congo Global Action, and the executive director of Africa Faith and Justice Network. Father Rocco.
FATHER ROCCO PUOPOLO: Good morning everyone. On behalf of the coalition I’d like to just welcome, especially our guests and speakers, and all of you who have taken the time to come and be with us and to hopefully be part of this coalition. My purpose this morning, and I’m hoping to be very brief, is simply to give a thumbnail background of how we got to where we are today. In the summer of 2006, and I wasn’t here in Washington yet, I came in September. There were a group who came together to think through the possibility of forming a very wide coalition that could maybe form a movement to address the silence that we spoke of last night regarding Congo. In November of ’06 a number of faith based groups, operational NGO’s, humanitarian NGO’s, grass root groups and Congolese diaspora gathered for a Saturday and Sunday weekend to really think through and work at forming the Congo Global Action Network. Something that would be beyond Washington, really global, and we’ve tried since that time to make it happen.
I’d like to introduce this morning the executive committee of the Congo Global Action Network; those who are present here this morning. Not so much just to acknowledge them but to have you know who they are so in the course of today, maybe during lunch or whenever you get a chance to meet, if you have suggestions, ideas, things that can work for you to be part of this coalition to break this silence together that’s why we’re here. I am the chair of the committee and this is Nita Evele, is a vice chair; Ms. Carrie Crawford, I’m not sure if she’s come in yet, she’s from Friends of the Congo, she is also on the executive committee; Ms. Nikki Smith and Ms. Jan Sullivan. Antonio Carvalho is our regional coordinator; he is up in the back.
Familiarize yourself with who we are and do approach us if you have ideas for the next step beyond the conference. There is also a conference steering committee that actually put this together since last November. Previously we were planning to have this conference in November, it was postponed to this time, to make sure it really comes off the ground and I’d just like to invite the conference steering committee to stand. I think those that are present are Rory, Krista, Marco, Bahati. We represent CARE, World Vision, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, Friends of the Earth, ENOUGH, Great Lakes Policy Forum, Africa Faith and Justice Network, Nita’s coalition, it’s in French and I don’t speak French, Congo Coalition for Chicago, Friends of Congo, Trans-Africa Forum and Search for Common Ground. These are the folks who thought through this particular conference.
We wanted to bring together faith based groups, operational NGO’s, humanitarian NGO’s, grass root groups, and Congolese diaspora in order that we could address three issues, saving lives, keeping people safe and ending resource exploitation. We’ve, in the presentations this morning and this afternoon, the workshops are those three issues that we hopefully can break the silence that are so much a part of that. We planned three conferences, one in Brussels which was had in March of ’07, this Washington U.S. conference, and hopefully in the not so distant future we may have a conference on these same issues on the Continent in Africa, that’s our plan.
I think from this conference on do stay in touch with our website because the executive committee and others who have - we have a monthly call for those who are interested in keeping abreast, but I think the hinge for the time being, will be the website. Keep in touch with the website, keep in touch with Antonio, and we’ll see where we go because none of us can do it alone. I think we have tried. The only way we can break the silence and move peace and reconstruction for the Congo is together and I’m so glad you are here. Thank you.
JOHN HEFFERNAN: Okay, the first session of the day is DRC 101 to be moderated by my colleague Bridget Conley-Zilkic, who is our project director at the Committee on Conscience here at the museum.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you John. Thank you all for coming. I’ll just briefly introduce our three speakers as you do have their bios in the conference packet, so I’ll begin, immediately to my left is Archbishop Francois Maroy, and we want to send a very special thank you and welcome to him and to all of our guests who have come on the really long trip from Congo to join us today. Archbishop Maroy was installed as Archbishop of Bukavu in 2006 and he is a native of Bukavu. After the Archbishop speaks we’ll hear from Zainab Salbi, who is founder and CEO of Women for Women International. I would just say you can read the details and the biographies but I think Zainab is really notable as someone who saw the power and strength of creating strong interpersonal relationships across continents, cross cultures to support women in need in conflict areas. Then third, we’ll hear from Gayle Smith who is one of the most impressive women in Washington, D.C. and who has also worked on issues in Africa as a journalist, as an aid worker at the highest levels of the United States Government and now at non-governmental organizations, so Gayle Smith as well. We’ll begin then, Archbishop Maroy.
ARCHBISHOP MAROY: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you very much. Zainab?
ZAINAB SALBI: Well, as we talk about Congo and other wars, in general, but particularly the war in Congo, we cannot limit the discussion to only the frontline discussion of the war. We may not - we cannot only discuss about the fighting and the troops, and the rebels, and the shooting, and the weapons, and the helicopters and the tanks - well they don’t have that much over there, but much more the ____ and the clashing cults and all of these things. There are two sides of every war. There is the frontline discussion of the war and there is the backline discussion of the war.
The frontline discussion of the war has been mostly dominated by men who are doing the fighting and who are leading military or political solutions or discussions, and the backline discussion of war is often, and historically, and particularly in Congo has been led by women. That is - that has everything to do with how do you keep life going in the midst of war? What is the impact on children’s education, or water, or food, or sanitation, or the basic necessities of life? What is the impact of war on the long term on the society? What is the impact on fear and love, and hatred, and reconciliation, and all of these things and we need to address the other side of war?
We need to discuss the other side of war as we discuss the frontline of the discussion. We - there is no way we can understand the full definition of war or the full definition of peace if we are limiting the discussion to only the frontline discussion of it. Now often when it comes to the discussions of women we are often limited to the numbers of the atrocities that are committed against women, and that is historically in all wars from World War II to the Bosnia War, to the Balkan War too and now the war in Congo. The numbers are available; there’s never been shortages of actually the atrocities committed against women. Historically, in modern wars, 90% of modern war casualties are civilian, 75% of which are women and children, and 80% of the worldwide refugees in the world are women and children, so these facts are always available. In Congo, in particular, it is estimated as you heard earlier, 5.4 million people have been killed. The number of rapes, the only official numbers that I’ve heard of is 40,000 women have been raped as someone who works there and who have been visiting there. Throughout the years I really would not doubt that it’s hundreds of thousands of women who have been raped. It is estimated that there are four million orphans in Congo, there are 1.1 million people with HIV positive; of course the majority 75% of which were caring for them are women and children and the numbers goes on and on and on.
We need to move on from the numbers because I have a feeling that whenever we talk about numbers, partially it’s a good thing to talk about the magnitude of these atrocities, but the other part of it is that we get numb. It’s too overwhelming, it’s too big, and when it comes to women I think there are a lot of us in the world, I think the world in general has been numb to violence against women. We’re so used to it; oh one more woman, oh it’s just women, from domestic violence, to rape, to all kinds of violence that happens to women from around the world. We need to shift that discussion from a marginal discussion of just numbers, or its just women, to a central discussion.
Women, in my opinion, are bellwether for the society. We cannot talk about the progress or about building peace, or about building security and stability, or prosperity without talking about strengthening and empowering women. We may not actually have full peace without having women part of the definition of what full peace is. Both, as someone who’s survived war myself, as well as someone who works in wars, peace is by no means as a simple signing of a peace agreement, that’s just the first side of the - that’s the front page of - the frontline discussion of peace.
Peace is also about the backline discussion of it and that has to include the voices of women. For those of you who were here yesterday I had - you heard me - you would have heard me say that but I really find it amazing that the only group of people who do not kill and do not rape, and do not pillage, and do not burn, and are not creating rebellious groups, and the only group of people who are caring for the society and every aspect of it are not included at the negotiating table. We cannot talk about the future of Congo, or the region, or anywhere else if we do not have women in it because they are the ones who are really dealing with the day to day reality of their country, and of their families and lives, and the long term impact on the society. To shift the discussion and to include women as a central discussion in the table we need to understand some of the things that - what they are saying.
We need to understand that 80% of the Congolese populations, particularly in Eastern Congo are living on less than $.20 a day. You - we can’t talk about peace without talking about the $.20 a day which is not enough to provide three meals. We need to understand that it’s estimated 2% of the women, that at least women form and international works, which is about 17,000 women in Eastern Congo, are saying they have 2% only have electricity. We cannot talk about peace without the inclusion of infrastructure. What does that mean in Eastern Congo? 85% of the women we interviewed we talked - we work with, they take care of more then three children who are not their own children, and mostly they are HIV and mostly are out of the orphans that I mentioned, the four million orphans that the country has right now, or this region, this part of the country has rather.
Two-thirds are illiterate; we cannot talk about peace without talking about education and literacy rates and access to education to all the children. Most of the women we work with say that they have to choose between giving some of their children malaria medication or HIV medication, or sending their kids to school. That choice should not be a choice. No it’s - it’s the most emasculating thing, it’s the most disempowering thing for any parent in the world to choose between saving their kids or sending the other kids to school.
One woman told us, she said, I have - I feel like I have no value. When you see your child crying because she is hungry and there is nothing that you can do about it, it is painful. It hurts at the core of my being; the feeling of being insignificant and worthless is further enhanced because everyday is more and more difficult. Her name is Furhana, she’s 34 years old and has seven children. I have - I met a woman in Congo who said - who is HIV positive, she’s 23 years old, she has two kids and she’s HIV because she got raped and she said, I just want - she’s part of Women for Women International Program and in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, and she’s saying she’s praying that she dies after she graduates from our program so she can save some money, so she can buy her kids some land and some sheep, and some goats, so she - so they will have inheritance after she dies. This should not be a choice, this should not be a discussion, and we cannot talk about the future of Congo and the presence of Congo without talking about these day to day tangible realities of what the women are saying.
Now, a lot of times one feels overwhelmed at the magnitude of the crisis, as I said. Yesterday, after the presentation, a lot of people came and said what can we do? I look at - I hear and I read about what’s happening in Congo and I feel helpless, what can we do? Well we can do a lot of things I think, and a lot of people are doing things. It’s about how do we take it to skill and how do we keep the word, how do we keep our - how do we echo the screams of the women in Congo to here and around the world?
I can tell you about what Women for Women International does in Congo. We have a very basic program, very simple program, we have an appeal for every single woman and man around the world to sponsor one woman survivor of war by sending $27 a month along with a letter to start a communication link between the two women. When you survive war, when you are raped, and your life is pulled away from underneath your feet for no reason that you know of, you’re living in your home, no matter how rich or poor you were, you had a normal life and one day the rebels attacked and destroyed your life; raped you in front of your family, raped your daughters, burnt your house, took everything they had. When you are in that stage you think - you lose hope in humanity. You lose faith in notions of women’s rights and human rights because you feel that the world has forgotten about you.
That letter you send, that letter from someone in America sending to the Congolese sister and saying I care, and I’m here to support you financially and emotionally make the difference between restoring one’s hope in humanity or not. We also teach women vocational skills, business skills, marketing skills, and women’s rights in an intensive one year program. We group women, 20 women at a time, so we rebuild the support network that wars often destroys, because when you are raped you often leave your village and go to another village, and you don’t have a support network that you had before. We try to rebuild these support networks by grouping women, 20 women at a time, and they meet every other year for a whole year - every other week for a whole year where they go through these two kinds of training, business skills and women’s rights. They’re getting your letters, your financial supports, they’re getting two kinds of training and they graduate, and when they graduate the majority of which are buying land and starting businesses. When they buy land they start farming and they start small businesses on their own land.
We did a survey awhile ago of, I don’t remember how many women, but 92% of them said they moved from having $.20 a day to earning $140 a month after they entered through the program. Is there a possibility to make a difference? We absolutely can. This organization started from zero, nothing, nada, nishda, dêan, nothing, 15 years ago and throughout the years we not only worked with 180,000 women, in Congo alone we worked with more then 17,000 women, and in Congo alone we distributed more then $4.5 million dollars in aid to the women to help them stand on their feet in the midst of the war. Because you can’t stop - life doesn’t stop, people still have to go to school and they still have to go to weddings, and they still have to live, and they still have to earn a living in the midst of war and that’s what we are trying to do of addressing the normal life in the midst of war. Our country director in Congo, Christine Karumba says, one woman can do anything, many women can do everything, and I really believe in that.
I want to conclude not only with Christine’s word but a Rumi quote. I’m a big fan of Rumi, who’s a thirteenth century Sufi poet. One of my favorite poems by him he says, out beyond the worlds of right doings and wrongdoings, there is a field, I will meet you there. I really and humbly add that I think as we talk about Congo we need to also remember that out beyond the worlds of war and peace, there is a field and many, many are there and we need to only increase this field in whatever way we can do. Whether it is through advocacy or humanitarian aid or development, or raising awareness, we need to increase the fields so more can hear and can be part of the solutions for Congo. Thank you.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you. I think one of the strengths of our partners in this Congo Global Action is that they have viewed their work in solidarity with the people of Congo. We’ll hear more about what people on the ground are doing, what Congolese are doing to try to recover and to strengthen society that’s been so wounded in this conflict. Here in Washington we also want to take the time to think about what can we do on MACRA, on a national and international level, and so Gayle Smith will tell us a little bit more about international responses to Congo and how we can make an impact on that level. Thank you.
GAYLE SMITH: Thank you Bridget and good morning everybody. I’m delighted to be here. I was horrified during your introduction to realize that I first worked with the African Faith and Justice Network over 20 years ago, and if you add five to that it’s even more then that. All of that is just a way of saying that I’ve been around for a long time and I find myself, as I think about how to talk about the Congo and what we can do, with some bad news and some good news.
The bad news is that the story of the Congo on its own, of a country where development has been denied and resources have been raided throughout history, should stand on its own and should be sufficient to mobilize the world, and indeed Archbishop as you said, this city and this country to act. The fact is it hasn’t yet been enough, but there is also some good news, and that is that we’ve seen an increasingly, over the last five or six years, that when people know about an issue they care about it and they act on it.
Witness the fact, for example, that there is a global poverty movement that has taken root in this country which has forced Democrats and Republicans to agree, which they don’t generally do, on increasing foreign assistance substantially. Witness the fact that there is a movement across this country, a movement that is diverse by virtue of gender, age, politics, and demographics demanding that the United States do more about Darfur. You look at those things, that’s good news, and so I was thinking to myself all right now take the Congo where the stories, if anything, are bigger and bolder and worse then in many parts of the world. How do we do this? I think the way we do this is to connect the dots.
It’s easy to compete and to put Congo out there, and one can make this argument, as perhaps worse then any humanitarian crisis on Earth, but I think there is more power in connecting the dots. Connecting the dots to Darfur to Northern Uganda, that’s something we do in the ENOUGH Project, which is my organization, to the crisis in Somalia, to the crisis that is unfolding in Zimbabwe, to Burma, to the Middle East, even to Pakistan because underneath there are many stories of the Congo that connect the dots and I believe if we do that we can tell the story, we can get people to hear it, when they hear it they will care, and when they care they will act.
Let me talk about ten ways I think we can tell the story of the Congo that will allow us to connect the dots, and Archbishop you covered many of these, so I thank you very much for that. Some of these are tailored, by the way, to meet at least halfway, the debates that go on in this city and this country about our role in the world and our responsibilities in the world. First is stability and security, as the Archbishop said, the Congo is a trigger. There’s a growing amount of discussion about something called weak and failing states. It’s generally agreed that Somalia is the world’s premiere failed state, but on every list of weak and failing or fragile states that has been produced by the U.S. Government, by think tanks up and down Massachusetts Avenue, and by academies across the country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is on the list. A weak state is one where the government is unable to secure its borders, social services - basic social services are not provided for the people and there is not enough political legitimacy to foster cohesion. We cannot afford, Africa cannot afford, central Africa cannot afford, and most importantly, the people of the Congo cannot afford a Congo that is unstable and insecure.
Second, what about connecting the dot to our moral values? We’ve heard numbers up here, 5.4 million dead, over a million people displaced, I would agree with Zainab hundreds of thousands of women raped, millions of orphans. We talk often and passionately about our moral values, about the rights of every human being to dignity. I can think of no better, bigger, and more alarming illustration of the violation to our moral values then the story of the Congo; so there’s our second dot.
Our third dot is poverty. In many parts of the world poverty is decreasing. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, structural poverty is on the increase. What does that mean structural poverty? That means that the numbers are getting worse, but it also means that the capability and capacity of people to break out of poverty is being gradually eroded. There is less access today then the tools and opportunities that might allow people in communities to break out of poverty. Global poverty is talked about by the right, by the left, by people of faith, by our politicians and by activists across this country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the story of global poverty and the struggle against it.
Dot number four, democracy and good governance, and I would wholeheartedly agree with the Archbishop that this can’t be just some politically correct formulation or dictate issued by the world’s democracies. Democracy and governance is about institutions, it’s about the ability to find means for the peaceful resolution of disputes, it’s about people having equal access to opportunity, it’s about the kind of transparency that can prevent people from stealing a nation’s national resources, it is about all of these things. The Congo, as the Archbishop pointed out, is on a path that’s very important where people have had the opportunity to see the difference between violence and voting, but building democracy is an arduous task, one that takes decades, a lot of concerted effort, tremendous resources and profound understanding. Our government here invokes the concept of promoting democracy almost everyday. Where is there a better example of the need for a democracy? Not one that meets our standards but meets the needs and aspirations of its own people then in the Congo.
Number five, debt relief, many of the faith based and secular organizations, in fact here we’re part of something called Jubilee 2000, a major campaign to secure debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. That campaign has been enormously successful; it is something that Democrats and Republicans pat themselves on the back for having supported. Congo is a country that often comes up for increasing amounts of debt relief. Congo’s debt is enormous, and quite frankly, it is through no fault or responsibility of its citizens. It’s out of a history of bad loans made to bad governments. Debt relief is something that is still talked about, not just as an economic measure to fight poverty, but as a moral measure to counter the mistakes of the past. Congo is a country that is on that list, should be on that list, and this is another way we can tell the story of the Congo and connect the dots.
HIV and AIDS, the Archbishop mentioned and I think one of you mentioned that there are as many as one million people infected with HIV and AIDS in the Congo. I would argue that we probably don’t know what the numbers are, that there are too many parts of the country where there is no access, where there is no testing, where there is no support for people who may be infected. HIV and AIDS has captured the world’s attention. President Bush has launched an unprecedented initiative, again supported by both parties to fight the pandemic around the world. The story of HIV and AIDS in the Congo, the story of other diseases in the Congo, Congo is a place where you hear about viruses like the Ebola virus and the inability of both Congolese and international vectors to get to the victims because of the lack of infrastructure. This is a crisis that the Congo least of all deserves and the world cannot afford. When we talk about HIV and Aids, when we talk about global pandemics, we are talking about the Congo.
Extremism, the Archbishop mentioned that Congo could easily become a bastion for terrorism. I am one that is a little bit uncomfortable with our almost exclusive focus on terrorism as a manifestation of political problems in the Middle East. I would argue that the threat we all face is that of extremism. It’s an extremism that would deny the rights or even the existence of another people is an extremism that the institution we are in today was built to challenge. That extremism is alive and well in parts of the Congo, and as the Archbishop rightly pointed out, it is a mistake to define that as ethnic in nature. There is no ethnic group that by virtue of its ethnicity, genetically or otherwise, favors the destruction of other people. There are bad leaders. There are militia leaders. There are rebel leaders. There are officials. There are those who can abuse power, manipulate the passions of ethnicity to turn people against one another. That is a form of extremism; it threatens us everywhere, including in the Congo.
Number eight is human rights. This is, I think, obvious but again shrouded in silence as the other tragedies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are. The human rights abuses in the Congo have been rampant and have been committed by many upon many. There is a huge opportunity, and in fact, necessity to put Congo where it belongs. That is near the top of the list of human rights challenges around the world. Women and rape, as Zainab rightly points out, women are the backbone of Congo’s survival and of its future. Rape is an egregious, horrific, brutal, and long lasting tragedy and it is occurring by some accounts in epidemic proportions in the Congo. Now rape is an issue that every person, regardless of their political background, their economic background, their nationality, is concerned and alarmed about. Anyone who knows someone who has been raped knows that it is in fact a form of torture. Congo is the story of rampant rape untended.
Finally, and most important, Congo is and must be a story of hope. It is very easy to look at what’s happening the Congo and to portray it and to advocate, and to demand that people break the silence by pointing to the ugly side, by pointing to the victims, by pointing to the devastation, but it is critically important that we also point to the hope and the potential. The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are no different then any other people in the world, including those of us in this room. They want dignity, they want justice, they want equality, they want better lives for their families and their children, they want to live in peace and engage with their neighbors rather then defend themselves from them.
The big story we need to tell about the Congo is about its future, about a Congo where resources can be used for the majority rather then exploited by the minority and where development can be the path that can allow all Congolese to live in unity and in hope. I firmly believe that by taking the step of coming together as this very diverse group has, we can send the signal of connecting the dots, and by telling the stories of the Congo through lenses, and by way of avenues that other people can hear, and that relate to the stories of others, we can tell that story of Congo and ensure that the silence is broken. I hope that through the course of the day we’ll do what we can to connect those dots to make sure that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is part of our story and a functioning, thriving, just and secure part of our world. Thank you very much.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you. We are running a little bit tight on time. I’d like to ask that anyone who has questions or comments; we have two mikes down front on the two aisles. We welcome your questions, your comments, please keep them concise and please come forward then.
MALE #1: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Do you have another question?
MALE #1: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you. Is that the question?
MALE #1: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Can I just ask that you wrap because we want to make sure that we can get all of the voices, people have lined up to ask questions heard.
MALE #1: (French dialogue)
MALE #2: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you. I think what we’ll do is take a couple questions and then answer them altogether to allow time for more people to speak. Please.
FEMALE #1: In addition to the tragedy in the Congo, I think it’s a tragedy that this country has not responded significantly to the issues in the Congo and I’d like our speakers to speak to increased supplemental appropriations in the ’08 budget because we have an opportunity to increase the appropriations to the Congo and to increase the ’09 appropriations. This country is significantly under funded by the U.S. Legislature. Mining contract have just been suspended and investigated by a team of people in the Congo. There is a window of opportunity for those contracts to become transparent so that the people of the Congo can have a part in deciding how their resources are used. Is the U.S. going to have a role in making those contracts transparent and are they going to require and investigate any U.S. companies that are doing business in the Congo, either illegally or inappropriately. The Congo has no caucus in the legislature; Uganda, Sudan, many other African countries have a caucus; legislators are constantly meeting about these other countries. Are we asking for a caucus to be created so that there will be ongoing legislative dialogue? Is this country pressuring Rwanda to increase its border patrol to decrease the amount of illegal transport of resources out of the Congo and guns into the Congo, could our speakers speak to any or all of those?
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: We’ll just take one more and then I’ll ask our speakers to address the first three sets of questions.
MALE #3: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you. We’ll pause just for a minute before we take any new questions, and I think we’re actually running very tight on time, so I don’t know if we’ll be able to take more. I’d like to combine two of the questions. The initial one was the question of Rwanda’s influence over MONUC, which I think is also comparable to other questions about the role that the U.S. could potentially play in pressure, in not only Rwanda, but other neighboring countries to improve their role in relation to the conflict in Congo. I’d like to ask if any of the panelists would like to respond to the question of neighboring countries roles in Congo, what have they done, what are they doing, and how could that situation be improved? Gayle do you want -
GAYLE SMITH: I’m happy to - and then can I just tack on a couple of the U.S. Government specific - and if I may commercial advertising. One of the things that we do as the ENOUGH Project is something called the policy standard. We have outside something called the Congo Policy Standard which we issue, which looks at what the U.S. is doing and also what the U.S. could and should do, so it’s just may prove a helpful guide. Let me say a couple of things, I think that the United States, including with the appointment of Tim Shortley, has stepped up its engagement on the Congo and with countries in the region. In an effort to manage such things as the border, Rwanda’s involvement and to also broker ideally more dialogue within the region, and I just want to make a general point here. I think from an advocacy perspective, if what we want to do is in part influence Washington, and from a policy perspective the more our concerns are framed in terms of what the vision of a future of the Great Lakes is, where there is cooperation rather then competition, and regional engagement rather then conflict, the further we will get. The reason I say this is that the Congress, and with all due respect to members of Congress, have a fairly low threshold in terms of engagement on the details of all of these conflicts and how many layers down they will go.
The second reason, and I by no means want to minimize the involvement of other countries from the sub-region in the Congo, it’s a very important fact, but to the extent that that is focused on in the negative as opposed to here is where we are trying to go, I fear that we’re going to lose some of our audience. I think that the administration is trying to engage more in the sub-region, but I think ultimately, what is going to be necessary is that affirmative vision of how this sub-region can work. How can the Congo and Rwanda manage their common borders? How can the Great Lakes Region work together to prevent what are continued arms flows into the region?
Again, I’m not disputing that there’s been lots of interference in the Congo and still is, but I’m just encouraging that the focus be turned on its head, and very quickly with respect to the Legislative Branch of our government. While there is a tension on Darfur and Uganda, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say there’s a caucus that meets all the time. There tend to be interested members of the Congress, some of whom like Sam Brownback, Feingold, and others have been on this issue for a long time. Others who are mobilized because they hear from a movement on a regular basis, and I think the way to get that same attention on Capital Hill for the Congo is twofold. The more they hear from a group like this, and importantly, a group that represents a number of organizations within it, so therefore is very large, the more they will talk about it number one. Number two, the more we can connect the dots to other issues the more attention they will pay. There are just so many crises around the world, if we just add this as one more country; I think we get less traction.
The last thing I’ll just say is on the budget and appropriations. It is always possible to get what are called supplemental appropriations to the budget, that’s adding additional monies to what’s been agreed by the White House and the Legislative Branch. It’s been done for the Congo before, I think it’s possible to do it again, but what I would also argue is that we need to get into the regular budget process early because that is where the U.S. Government determines how much there will be for peace keeping and whether we will fund MONUC going forward. How much there will be for debt relief, how much there will be for development assistance, so while I think going for supplemental funds in this budget is a reasonable idea, the more important thing is for all of us to engage on the regular budget and press for more funds to be front loaded.
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Some of the other questions that were raised regarded weapons control to Congo. I don’t know Archbishop if you wanted to speak about the place of weapons for the _____ in Congo.
ARCHBISHOP MAROY: (French dialogue)
BRIDGET CONLEY-ZILKIC: Thank you. I must apologize to our other audience members who wanted to pose questions we are now past our time. However, as you all know, the rest of the afternoon until we meet again altogether for the final talk is to be divided up into workshops and I think really to move forward into those workshops bring your questions, bring your comments, there’s a lot of work to be done. Please join me in thanking all three of our panelists.
JOHN HEFFERNAN: Thank you very much. We have a few housekeeping messages that I would like - or announcements that I would like to make right now, but before we do that I’d like very much to thank - gratefully thank the sponsors of the conference and I’m just going to quickly name them. CARE, Catholic Relief Services, ENOUGH, The International Rescue Committee, The Open Society Institute, Oxfam, Refugees International, The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Committee on Relief and World Vision; we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you very much. Now onto a few announcements before we split off to our workshops, and by the way, the workshops are both here in the Meyer-Hoff - the workshop that will be here will be exploring gender based violence and next to us, in a smaller auditorium called The Rubinstein, will be the workshop on children and on economic realities in the DRC; so right after these announcements, as well as there is a group that will be having lunch up in the classroom. Real quickly, please bring your headsets with you to the workshops, they will be translated as well, and somebody has left some keys, they look like car keys. Leah, up in the lobby who has a red sweater with her hand up right there has them, so if anybody’s missing some car keys. In relation to tomorrow and the activities tomorrow I have a number of announcements. One is everybody is encouraged to attend the training session tonight at 6:30, 6:30 at the Center for American Progress, we have directions there in the registration room on how to get there. If you have any questions please ask representatives from The Coalition or others around the room. Again, 6:30 tonight at The Center for American Progress; tomorrow the opening session begins at 8:00 and I have been told you need to be there at 8:00 please, and the opening breakfast and orientation will be up at Capital Hill at The Dirksen, again, further information on this is in the registration room. Where your t-shirt tomorrow; if everybody hasn’t collected their t-shirts please do, we have them I believe in Classroom B, is that right? Yes, okay. Please before you leave here complete your conference evaluation, that’s very important to us. I think at that point I’ve made all of the announcements. Again, the next workshops begin at 11:15 in just a little while here and in The Rubinstein and then lunch will be served in I think Classroom A. Thank you very much.