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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
Africa’S Great Lakes Region: A Security, Political, And Humanitarian Challenge October 23, 2015
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, to say that the Great Lakes region of Africa is troubled would be an understatement. Burundi is experiencing continued turmoil due to a recent contentious election. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, has had some level of conflict since the late 1990s. The Lord’s Resistance Army, also known as the LRA, has plagued several of these countries. Alleged plundering of DRC resources by Rwanda and Uganda have never been fully resolved. Nations in the region have been preoccupied in the last two years with resolving the South Sudan civil war. Definitions vary, but the Great Lakes region, as defined by the U.S. Department of State, comprises Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. The region is among the most densely populated in Africa, especially around Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, and enjoys rich agricultural potential, water resources, minerals, and wildlife. However, political instability, conflict, humanitarian crises, and a lack of development remain key challenges. These four countries are the purview of the U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Tom Perriello, whom we had before my subcommittee yesterday. We also had Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has spent a great deal of her time in office dealing with Great Lakes issues. Yesterday’s hearing offered an opportunity to hear from these administration officials not only about continuing U.S. efforts to extinguish the LRA threat, but also the administration’s work with governments in the region on issues such as peace building, governance and adherence to international human rights and democracy standards. In our subcommittee hearings over the last three years, we have uncovered numerous troubling situations: Even with the supposed end of operations by the M23 militia in eastern DRC in late 2013, there are several other militias still causing instability in the region. The Kabila government in the DRC is reportedly using a ban on completing foreign adoptions as leverage to ward off actions to prevent him from prolonging his rule despite a constitutional bar to any reelection bid. Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, which some Burundians and outside observers viewed as a violation of a landmark peace agreement—and, arguably, the Constitution of Burundi—has led to a political crisis and heightened concerns about regional stability. Human rights abuses in Rwanda were found to be targeted toward real or perceived political opponents prior to 2012, but after 2012, such abuses were seen as more random, expanding the targets of the regime. Maj. Robert Higero, a retired Rwandan military officer, told our subcommittee on May 20th about his solicitation by the Rwandan intelligence chief to kill to high-level defectors. He turned against the government and informed the targets who asked him to record the offer. He did, and the recording was validated by the Globe and Mail in Canada and the British Broadcasting Corporation. The State Department has not only found the allegations to be credible but warned Maj. Higero to leave Belgium where his life was in danger. Although LRA killings have diminished in the past few years, kidnappings by the group have risen as it operates in smaller, scattered cells, using more adults as temporary labor. One witness at our hearing last month said an end to the U.S. support for the counter-LRA effort would be “devastating.” We have heard of the difficulties of addressing issues in this troubled region of Africa by both government and private witnesses over the past few years. However, the fates of these countries are interconnected, and our policies need to take this into account. There are numerous issues in the Great Lakes countries that require examination, and we discussed yesterday what should be a coordinated U.S. policy in this region and we heard from our witnesses what the prospects are for this policy to be implemented."
Adoptive Family Relief Act October 7, 2015
Mitch McConnell, R-KY
"The issue this bill addresses is of particular importance to me, and I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the legislation. More than 400 American families, approximately 20 of them from Kentucky, have successfully adopted children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the DRC. However, due to the DRC Government’s years-long suspension of exit permits, many of these families have been unable to bring their adoptive children home to the United States."
Adoptive Family Relief Act October 7, 2015
Ed Royce, R-CA
"These American families have been unable to bring their legally adopted children home from the DRC because of a bureaucratic chokehold by the Congolese government. In some cases, some children who had a loving home ready and waiting in the United States died in Congo’s orphanages. Yes, died."
Adoptive Family Relief Act October 6, 2015
Trent Franks, R-AZ
"But I stand here tonight, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of hundreds of American families who are separated from their children with no sense of certainty or knowing when they will be allowed to see their children again or to know when their children will be home for good. That is because, in September of 2013, now more than 2 years ago, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the DRC, ceased issuing exit visas, including visas for the more than 350 children who had been fully legally adopted by American families. These families had fully complied with international adoption laws in both the United States and the DRC, had already spent months or years going through the tedious intercountry adoption process, and some of them had already arrived in the DRC with the belief that they would be bringing their adoptive children home at last to their forever families in America."
2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development October 1, 2015
Benjamin Cardin, D-MD
"The necessity of incorporating good governance and strong anticorruption measures in sustainable development efforts is most evident when we look at resource rich countries in Africa and the extraordinary development challenges there. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, for example, is a country rich in minerals, water resources, and agricultural potential. And it has experienced high annual economic growth in recent years. Yet most of its people continue to live in extreme poverty. DRC‘s progress on sustainable development is hindered by minimal central government control over large parts of the national territory, poor transportation and electricity infrastructure, the government’s inability to manage and monitor extraction of its natural resources, and broad governance problems including endemic corruption and barely functional state institutions."

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