WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks on the House floor today in support of H.R. 6207, the Democratic Republic of Congo Democracy and Accountability Act, which passed the House today:
"I want to thank our staff members who made this bill possible, particularly Lesley Warner of my staff. We traveled to Congo in 2016 with Chairman Royce and had very important meetings there. Frustrating, but important meetings. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of this measure.
"The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) borders nine other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and positive or negative events there often impact the entire region. This is why stability in the DRC is a priority not just for that country’s people, but for many other countries – including the United States. That’s why Chairman Royce and I led a CODEL there and that’s why so many of our other members on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Smith, Ms. Bass, have been there and have really cared about the region.
"For years, the DRC has been on the brink of crisis. More than 13 million people need humanitarian support, including 7.8 million children. Across the country, violent conflicts have intensified, including near the city of Beni, where health workers are battling a deadly Ebola outbreak.
"The current government, as my colleagues mentioned before, has shown a concerning disregard for democracy and the country’s consititution... with troubling restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, and disturbing reports of Congolese security forces violating the human rights of peaceful protestors.
"Next month, the DRC will hold elections, as my colleagues have mentioned, that were supposed to be held back in December 2016. So it’s a critical time for the United States to show we are committed to the DRC having a peaceful political transition, and moving toward accountable, democratic governance.
"The Democratic Republic of Congo Democracy and Accountability Act, this bill, asks the Administration to continue providing robust humanitarian and development assistance to the people of the DRC. It also requires the President to submit a report to Congress detailing the extent to which Congolese government officials are involved in human rights abuses against civilians, and codifies previous executive orders that target the property and interests of any persons responsible for actions that threaten the stability of the DRC.
"It’s important that we continue leading the international community to address the many challenges in the DRC. That’s why this bill asks the administration to keep the DRC on the UN Security Council agenda and work to ensure the UN peacekeeping mission there has sufficient means to operate effectively.
"After decades of conflict and instability, the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo deserve a peaceful democratic transition. By passing this bill today, we show that the House is committed to supporting that process.
"I am glad to support this bill and I reserve the balance of my time."
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