Hillary Clinton and the limits of US influence in Congo
Kate Morris of Falling Whistles published a very critical opinion piece in the New York Post over the weekend. In it, she argues that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has broken her promises to Congolese women:
Morris goes on to argue that Clinton should show stronger support for the appointment of a special envoy for the DRC, a position she supported as a Senator and co-sponsor (with President Obama) of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act in 2005. She concludes:
In 2009, on her first trip to Africa as the boss at State, Clinton was deeply affected by the severity of gender-based violence. Rape is often employed to humiliate and control populations in eastern Congo, the site of a deadly 16-year war involving armies of up to nine nations and another 30 rebel factions.
She left Congo in 2009 vowing to prioritize the plight of Congolese women -- but has since delivered next to nothing.
Clinton has one of the few positions that allows her to act on that 2005 bill and put someone on the ground capable of doing something for Congo's women. Instead, she has chosen the road of false promises. Now, you'll know whom to thank when violence flares in Congo anew.
Is US policy toward the Congo as good as it could be, and are we giving enough to combat the country's problems? No. But it is unfair to blame Secretary Clinton "when violence flares in Congo anew," or to criticize her for not keeping her promises, particularly when she did what she said she would do. Moreover, the US only has so much influence in a country whose problems are largely driven by local conflict, corruption, and weak governance. Rather than being consumed by the desire for a special envoy to be appointed, advocates might be more productive in pushing for better use of US leverage over the DRC budget, more training and professionalization of the FARDC by AFRICOM, and strengthening the capacity of the Congolese legal system in all sectors, not just legal services for SGBV victims. In doing so, we will have a much better chance of reaching the goal that policy makers, activists, and scholars all share: stabilizing the Congo so that its people can live healthy and prosperous lives.
Kate Morris will be responding to my critique with a guest post here in the upcoming days. Watch this space!