In the past several years, voices from the United States have dominated the conversation on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), creating a tension between the complex situations on the ground in the DRC and the simple messaging that works for advocacy movements in support of the DRC in the US. Additionally, there are questions about who is a legitimate voice in Washington, DC on the behalf of the Congolese. Financial and language barriers often prevent Congolese citizens from speaking on their own behalf in Washington, although members of the Diaspora, US based advocacy organizations, academics, and NGOs attempt to fill this void with their own expertise and opinions. Often these opinions do not fully convey the divergent and complicated feelings of the large and multifaceted population of the DRC. As the DRC is discussed in sound bites, a few dominant narratives emerge. How does the narrative of the Congo get told in Washington? Who gets to speak for Congo?
Peter Lewis, Johns Hopkins, SAIS
Laura Seay, Morehouse University and Texasinafrica Mvemba Dizolele, Stanford University Kambale Musavuli, Friends of Congo
The DRC presents a complex situation with as many angles as there are stakeholders. In the absence of Congolese voices, stories of the DRC are told by advocacy organizations, NGOs, academics, and the Diaspora. These stories cannot represent the whole, multifaceted reality on the ground, yet they are the basis on which policy makers must rely when deciding on priorities and legislation. Perspectives on the DRC, as they are seen in Washington have had numerous effects in the DRC, both good and bad. Controversial legislation on conflict minerals in Eastern Congo has been said to make living conditions for many people worse while others insist that it has improved the situation for most. The constant focus on rape as a weapon of war in Eastern Congo has dramatically increased services available to survivors but has perverted incentives and prevented women from receiving holistic care. The overall focus on the East has done a great deal to make the DRC into a policy priority, but ignored the failures of Congolese governance that are the root of many of the DRC’s problems. What is the way forward? How can advocacy organizations and all stakeholders work for the best outcomes and avoid unintended negative consequences? Should there be a “Do no harm” policy for advocates on behalf of the DRC?
Hamuli Kabarhuza Baudouin, National Coordinator, International Conference on the Great Lakes
Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International Rick Goss, Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) Eric Kajemba, Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP) John Prendergast, The Enough Project Claudine Tsongo, Dynamique de Femmes Juristes
Steve McDonald, The Woodrow Wilson Center
The Great Lakes Policy Forum is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. All comments are on the record but not for attribution.
1619 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20009
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