Heritage's James Carafano, right, testifies about the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside activist and actor Ben Affleck, left.

Heritage's James Carafano, right, testifies about the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside activist and actor Ben Affleck, left.

Heritage Foundation vice president James Carafano testified yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee about the ongoing security challenges facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On his same panel was none other than Ben Affleck. Yes, that Ben Affleck.

The African nation has a long history of instability, which has implications reaching far beyond its borders. Unfortunately, the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffers from both a corrupt and ineffective government and a corrupt and ineffective United Nations peacekeeping force.

“Although the U.S. does not have a direct national security interest in the DRC, it does have an interest in promoting stability and good governance,” Heritage experts Morgan Roach and Brett Schaefer explain. The Obama administration should take the following five steps, they write:

  • Acknowledge that the DRC government lacks legitimacy and cannot deliver on its commitments. The U.S. should press Kabila to decentralize authority and transfer power to provincial and local governments.
  • Enforce sanctions on supporters of rebel groups. The recent cut of $200,000 in security assistance to Rwanda for supporting rebels is a welcome sign that the U.S. is prepared to enforce its policy.
  • Encourage regional economic integration. Rwanda and Uganda have much to gain from a stable eastern DRC, particularly one with greater autonomy that would be open to trade and investment.
  • Diminish the size of MONUSCO, limit its mandate, and establish a framework for terminating the mission. It’s time for the United Nations to transition its work and acknowledge it’s not the proper force for implementing peace in eastern Congo.
  • Support the creation of an African Union peacekeeping force. An African-led strategy helped address the dismal situation in Somalia and could bring regional attention to resolving the DRC crisis.

As the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, Affleck’s activism in the DRC has helped bring awareness about the country’s instability and its consequences. The actor used his star power during yesterday’s hearing to argue that the administration should urge top-down reforms in the country.

While they disagreed on the exact solution, Carafano and Affleck both argued for important reforms in the DRC. Towards the end of the hearing, Affleck–who typically backs liberal causes–lightheartedly complained that he doesn’t have a Heritage membership: “The Heritage Foundation never offered me membership. It’s fitting that I’m on the far left of the panel.”

Do you think it’s important to join forces with the typically leftist Hollywood stars in order to direct more public attention to lesser known causes?

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