Ben Affleck wants more help for Congo


WASHINGTON – At the age of 14, Laba Kamana was captured by rebel soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They took her from her home, and for two years, raped her nearly every day. She finally escaped into the Congolese jungle; one of the world’s most dense, then discovered she was pregnant with the child of one of her captors.
Tuesday the actor Ben Affleck used the nightmare of the young woman – now 22 years old, studying law and advocating for women’s rights – to argue that more needs to be done for the central African country whose vast mineral resources and dangerous geography have kept it mired in civil war.
“If we continue to place Congo on the back burner of U.S. policy, it will come back to haunt us,” said Affleck at a Congressional hearing in Washington. “The last time Congo collapsed, armies came in from across Africa and five million people died. We must learn from history.”
Affleck, who founded a nonprofit group called Eastern Congo Initiative to help people like Kamana, said the Congo continues to be one of the most dangerous and unstable countries in Africa, although the war that started there in 1998 was theoretically ended with the signing of peace accords in 2003.
The actor called on Congress to do more to protect Congolese civilians from rampant violence, provide support for the elections that will take place in November and appoint a special U.S. representative to the Great Lakes region of central Africa, of which the Congo is a part.
“This is an ambitious agenda, but it can be accomplished,” Affleck said. “The federal budget may be seen as a zero sum game but our morality, our sense of decency, our compassion for our fellow human beings, is not.”
The actor, who first visited Congo more than five years ago, founded ECI in 2010. The organisation supports community-based organisations and works to bring stability the war-torn region of eastern Congo.
Affleck was joined at the hearing by Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain who has partnered with him in advocating for increased U.S. aid to the Congo.