Ben Affleck, Hollywood superstar and Oscar winner was in Washington DC to testify on the suffering and discomfort in the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo where many lives have been disfigured and perished in the on-going and ceaseless war. Ben Affleck is the founder of Eastern Congo Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated on finding solutions to problems of Congo by using his celebrity status, movies and media to expose the ugly situation in Congo.
Affleck said in a 20-minute session at Washington DC that "Outside my family and my work, this is it. This is my legacy. This is the thing I will be identified with. I take it extremely seriously." The lawmakers in Washington were impressed on his passion and understanding of Congo's imbroglio.
CHARLES DHARAPAK/AP Ben Affleck, left, Russ Feingold (State Department envoy in Africa ) and Secretary of State John Kerry (right)
"Congo, the former Belgian colony of about 68 million people, is one of the most volatile in Africa. Violence has claimed the lives of 5 million people since a regional war that began in 1997.
On Wednesday, Affleck was delivering a message of cautious optimism, citing the surrender last November of the armed militia M23 and the appointment of Feingold. His Eastern Congo Initiative, with two employees in the U.S. and 12 in the Congo, has had success through its community-based partnerships and, as Affleck noted, capitalism.
Theo, a chocolate company based in Seattle, is getting tons of its cacao beans from eastern Congo. Coffee is next, Affleck said.
"Now we have a window of hope in a place that has had a lot of war, a lot of conflict, a lot of suffering, basically no security sector," Affleck said.
Feingold said elections will be crucial as they stand as a "symbol to the people that they really have something to do with the government."
Affleck has made nine trips to the Congo and hopes to travel there again soon. He praised the work of former President George W. Bush on African issues as well as the effort of Cindy McCain, wife of Republican Sen. John McCain.
"Our Republican friends have perhaps been better on Africa than my party," said Affleck, a Democrat, who has occasionally toyed with running for office himself.
In his prepared testimony, he urged Congress to provide the funds for personnel and resources for the special envoy's office and to pressure President Barack Obama to engage directly with President Joseph Kabila, among other steps, " as reported by Associated Press.
Affleck will also appearance as a special guest in American television ABC Sunday news program to speak on finding solutions to Congo's problem. It is important that Africans especially those in Diasporas will try as much as possible to be engage and expose on this massive suffering and human rights abuse in Congo.
I’ve just returned from a sobering and illuminating trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), site of the deadliest conflict since World War II, joining a delegation that included Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Johanns, and John Thune.
It was a trip that almost didn’t happen. In the days leading up to our arrival, rebels from the M23 militia fired mortar shells into eastern Congo’s provincial capital of Goma, our planned destination, clashing with government forces and U.N. peacekeepers, and killing several civilians. This is just the latest instance of violence that has displaced more than 100,000 Congolese from their homes in the last few weeks, adding to the 2.2 million displaced since the beginning of 2012.
Since last November’s invasion of Goma by the M23 militia, Africa’s Great Lakes region has received a great deal of attention from the international community. In February, 11 countries — including DRC, Rwanda and Uganda — signed the U.N.-sponsored Framework for Peace, outlining a process which, if followed, could help create lasting stability across the region’s porous and militia-infected borders.
Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold have been dispatched by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, respectively, to bring high-level engagement and ensure this opportunity for peace does not pass. Kerry went to the United Nations last month to chair a Security Council meeting focused solely on this conflict.
Yet, for all this positive political and diplomatic activity, life for the people in eastern Congo remains the same, mired in a crisis rooted not only in conflict, but in extreme poverty.
Unemployment remains high, with youth unemployment eclipsing 70 percent in some areas, providing few alternatives to the allure of taking up arms in one of the dozens of active militias. Despite the ongoing violence, a recent opinion poll conducted by Eastern Congo Initiative found that 65 percent of Congolese believe jobs, the economy, and poverty are their country’s most pressing concerns.
Every time I visit Goma, I meet some of the people behind these numbers. I know the long odds they face. But as we saw Sunday, even with armed U.N. peacekeepers patrolling the streets and a militia surrounding their town, they work together, every day, to build a more prosperous future for their families and communities. Amid the chaos in eastern Congo, there is tremendous opportunity.
By all accounts, Congo should be the breadbasket of Africa. Agriculture comprises nearly half of GDP, while the sector employs 84 percent of Congolese working women. And while Congo’s borders contain enough arable land to feed a third of the world’s population, only 2 percent is farmed because of lack of investment and infrastructure.
The U.S. private sector has already recognized the remarkable potential of Congolese agriculture by investing millions in the region to improve Congolese crops and provide farmers with access to global markets. Companies like Seattle-based Theo Chocolate and Equal Exchange have turned the fruits of these labors into high-end, profitable products such as gourmet chocolate and specialty coffee that can be found in American supermarkets.
The Congolese have lived with insecurity since 1994. Despite all the odds, they have continued to develop an economy with enormous potential for growth. This is the time to encourage more public and private investment, not less, because economic stability is vital to establishing peace. USAID’s development investments in eastern Congo are a spark for economic growth and stability. I encourage the agency to continue this critical work and resist the urge to pull development funding out of the region.
The United States and the U.N. must accept that Congo is not a “guns versus butter” proposition — the armed conflict and economic instability are not isolated events, but intrinsically linked. We’ve seen first-hand that the situation on the ground is complex, and so the path to peace must be similarly comprehensive. Agricultural investment and economic assistance are fundamental components of this plan, and the United States should lead these efforts.
In the face of persistent conflict, it may be a natural reaction to turn away from the complexity and risk, but the smart bet is to lean into the opportunity. The U.S. private sector has already started down this path, and the U.S. government and USAID must maintain the courage to support their constituents as they invest in the opportunities of the Congolese economy, and in the potential of the Congolese people. There is no better investment we can make.
Cindy McCain is a humanitarian, chairman of Hensley & Company, and a board member of the Eastern Congo Initiative. She is the wife of United States Senator John McCain of Arizona. tweets @CindyMcCain.
Exciting times lay ahead for Africa as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is to house the world’s largest hydroelectric dam.
The Grand Inga project, as this upcoming dam is currently known, will produce 40,000 megawatts which would make it almost twice the size of China’s Three Gorges Damcurrently the world’s largest hydro energy dam.
At present, there are two hydroelectric sources along the Congo River already, second only to the Amazon in terms of volume.
Two Congolese sources said the dam falls about 300 metres over a stretch of 10 kilometres and already produces a great deal of power.
The Grand Inga is predicted to light up half of Africa with the World Bank estimating that if completed and running at full capacity, the dam could provide electricity to up to 500 million African households.
Work on the Grand Inga will begin in October 2015 and South African involvement is expected.
Verone Mankou hopes to become the Steve Jobs of Africa. The 27-year-old Congolese entrepreneur recently released the continent’s first ever homegrown smart phone and tablet, a move Mankou hopes will result in his company, VMK, cornering the booming mobile phone market in Africa.
“Only Africans know what Africa needs,” Mankou explained during a speech at a technology conference. “Apple is huge in the US, Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa.”
VMK’s offerings, the Way-C tablet and Elikia, are “African designed” gadgets with lower price tags than major brands, a fact Mankou hopes will make them more attractive to local consumers.
Read more at Clutch magazine.
"There's a remarkable symphony orchestra in the Congo, 200 musicians defying the poverty of their war-torn country and creating some of the most moving music we have ever heard. Bob Simon of CBS 60 minutes.
(CBS News) "Joy in the Congo" seems an unlikely -- even impossible -- title for a story from the Congo, considering the searing poverty and brutal civil war that have decimated that country. Yet in Kinshasa, the capital city, we found an unforgettable symphony orchestra -- 200 singers and instrumentalists defying the poverty, hardship, and struggles of life in the world's poorest country...and creating some of the most moving music we have ever heard. Follow Bob Simon to the Congo to hear the sounds and stories of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra." - CBS 60 Minutes
Click for VIDEO : http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7404678n
Picture Credits: Global Living, CBS 60 minutes
Many African and Nollywood actors are living in Houston
Ben Affleck - Hollywood actor, writer, director and now an advocate for Democratic Republic of Cong wants to make a movie about Congo. Ben Affleck is the founder of the advocacy group, Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), has just returned back from his recent trip to the eastern African country of Congo that has been bedeviled with instability since the era of cold war. Ben Affleck an actor, writer and director is asking Hollywood to finance a movie on Congo but he has received rejection letters from Hollywood moguls, movie financial houses and financiers.
"I would love to make a movie about Congo, but unfortunately I've asked Hollywood folks and they always say, ah, nobody wants to see a movie about Africa," said Affleck. "I think that points to this general sense that people sort of tune out, that it doesn't matter," he said in an interview.
"It's also a function of trends and conventional wisdom: if it comes down to a movie with fighting robots or a movie on what's happening in eastern Congo, you're not going to win."
Speaking and sounding like an expert on a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on U.S. foreign policy in Washington D.C: “In eastern Congo, conflict and insecurity continue while the guns have fallen silent in other parts," claiming some 3.5 million lives. Ben Affleck emphasis further from the prepared report by the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), “The international community -- and the US in particular -- must do more to address the challenges in eastern Congo if another failure of humanity is to be averted in central Africa.”
Two short documentaries about eastern Congo have already been made last year by Affleck that was shot at Nord-Kivu region Of Congo. The 23-minute video called "Gimme Shelter,” featuring Rolling Stones' hit song was collaborated with Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger.
Affleck said that making a movie on Africa has its problems, “But the other problem with movies about Africa is that there are no African movie stars in the United States. So the lead has to be someone who's American, and you have to figure out how to get an American person wedged into a story about Africa."
But maybe Ben Affleck has not heard about Nigeria’s Nollywood actors in America and Nigeria. Many experienced African actors and directors are living and working in Houston, Texas.
More on Democratic Republic of Congo
Affleck in Congo & tragedy in DRC
From Mobutu Dictatorship to Kabila Disintegration
“Laurent-Desire Kabila marched into Kinshasa on May 17, 1997 and declared himself president. He consolidated power around himself and the AFDL and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.). Kabila's Army Chief and the Secretary General of the AFDL were Rwandan, and RPA units continued to operate tangentially with the D.R.C.'s military, which was renamed the Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC).
Over the next year, relations between Kabila and his foreign backers deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila ordered all foreign troops to leave the D.R.C. Most refused to leave. On August 2, nationwide fighting erupted as Rwandan troops in the D.R.C. "mutinied," and fresh Rwandan and Ugandan troops entered the country. Two days later, Rwandan troops flew to Bas-Congo, with the intention of marching on Kinshasa, ousting Kabila, and replacing him with the newly formed Rwandan-backed rebel group called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD). The Rwandan campaign was thwarted at the last minute when Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian troops intervened on behalf of the D.R.C. Government. The Rwandans and the RCD withdrew to eastern D.R.C., where they established de facto control over portions of eastern D.R.C. and continued to fight the Congolese army and its foreign allies.
In February 1999, Uganda backed the formation of a rebel group called the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC), which drew support from among ex-Mobutuists and ex-Zairian soldiers in Equateur province (Mobutu's home province). Together, Uganda and the MLC established control over the northern third of the D.R.C.
At this stage, the D.R.C. was divided de facto into three segments--one controlled by Laurent Kabila, one controlled by Rwanda, and one controlled by Uganda--and the parties had reached military deadlock. In July 1999, a cease-fire was proposed in Lusaka, Zambia, which all parties signed by the end of August. The Lusaka Accord called for a cease-fire, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation, the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the launching of an "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" to form a transitional government leading to elections. The parties to the Lusaka Accord failed to fully implement its provisions in 1999 and 2000. Laurent Kabila drew increasing international criticism for blocking full deployment of UN troops, hindering progress toward an Inter-Congolese Dialogue, and suppressing internal political activity.
On January 16, 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated, allegedly by a member of his personal bodyguard corps who was in turn killed by an aide-de-camp. Kabila was succeeded by his son Joseph, who reversed many of his father's negative policies. Over the next year, the UN peacekeeping mission in the D.R.C. (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC) deployed throughout the country, and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue proceeded. By the end of 2002, all Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops had withdrawn from the D.R.C. Following D.R.C.-Rwanda talks in South Africa that culminated in the Pretoria Accord in July 2002, Rwandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in October 2002. However, there were continued, unconfirmed reports that Rwandan soldiers and military advisers remained integrated with the forces of an RCD splinter group (RCD/G) in eastern D.R.C. Ugandan troops officially withdrew from the D.R.C. in May 2003.” (US State Dept.)