(Photo: Nicholas Long/IRIN)
Despite headlines regularly highlighting conflict and crushing poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, says there is reason to believe conditions in that strategic country can improve.
"In the past five decades, DRC has been a poster child for all that afflicts Africa - military coups, rampant corruption, runaway inflation, health pandemics, conflict minerals and poor governance," Carson said during a speech at the Brookings Institution.
"The international community has a moral imperative to act more effectively in the DRC, to break this cycle of death and suffering and to address the other consequences of this violence: the unmitigated rape and sexual violence against women and children, the nearly two million internally displaced people, the approximately 450,000 Congolese refugees who have been forced to flee to neighboring countries," he said. More than five million people have died as a result of continuing violence over the past 15 years.
Carson delivered prepared remarks and answered questions from the moderator, Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O'Hanlon and from the audience of several hundred. He said DRC has a strong constituency among Americans, Africans and the broader international community that want the DRC to reach its true potential and surmount the plague of unrealized economic potential.
"After a string of recurring crises, many write off DRC as hopeless, but that is a serious mistake for Congo, its neighbors in the region and the global community," he said.
"This administration has support in Congress to elevate the issues in DRC to a new level of importance", Caron said. The country should be a political and economic powerhouse, given its precious materials, fertile soil and unparalleled hydroelectric potential, he said. As home to the world's second largest rainforest, the country has special importance in the efforts to combat climate change, he added.
"If DRC is stable and has an economy that benefits its people, DRC could become a leading exporter of natural resources, agriculture and science products that would attract foreign investment," Carson said.
Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga, reporting as Phyllis Crockett, covered the White House for National Public Radio and was based in sub-Saharan Africa for more than 10 years working on development issues. She was part of an AllAfrica team in Liberia to report on agricultural development and poverty reduction and currently is a development consultant.