On Oct 24, 2007, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on “Exploring the U.S. Role in Consolidating Peace and Democracy in the Great Lakes Region.” The hearing was chaired by Sen. Feingold, D-Wis., and testifying were Jendayi E. Frazer – Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Katherine J. Almquist – Assistant Administrator for Africa at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Gayle E. Smith – Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Co-founder of the Enough Project, Kevin Fitzcharles – Country Director of CARE Uganda, and Mauro De Lorenzo – Resident Fellow of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The hearing coincided with the October visits to the US by Joseph Kabila, the president of the D.R. Congo and Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda.
Also, the US is interested in continuing to work with the UN peacekeeping force (MONUC) to effectively support the Congolese government and protect civilians. To this point, AFJN thinks that MONUC has been largely ineffective due to lack of capacity and oversight – something that may be remedied by increased US involvement in the conflict
Rape in the Congo was also underscored for its gravity. The recent UN report on Gender Based Violence in the D. R. Congo described the situation as the “worst they have ever seen.” Rape is now becoming a weapon against the local population, with women and children the most vulnerable with a 60% increase in reported cases of rape from August and September.
The US government will open a diplomatic field presence in Goma to observe the peace process and support the US government in providing assistance in building democracy, stability, health, encouraging economic growth, and protecting the environment. To this suggestion, Gayle E. Smith challenged the US government to rethink their strategies. According to her, the D.R. Congo needs a diplomatic surge and more qualified personnel on the ground. One diplomat in Goma is not enough considering the complexity and the gravity of the situation.