WASHINGTON (AP) — With an atypical audience — members of Congress — actor and director Ben Affleck read from a script with a pointed message: A desperate humanitarian situation in Congo requires a stronger display of U.S. leadership, and it will get worse without one.
Glancing down at prepared testimony, Affleck told the House Armed Services Committee that he had traveled to Congo regularly in recent years, seeing both the effects of violence and the potential of the African country. He called for the U.S. to show moral leadership in the region, saying it didn't require a deep investment of tax payer money.
"They deserve better than this cycle of violence and upheaval," he said of the people of Congo.
"Without persistent, high-level leadership by the United States, the key players will not come to the table and do their part," he said.
Affleck, who wore a charcoal gray suit and a blue tie, said the U.S. should lead an effort to reshape the United Nations' role in the region. Despite a U.N. presence in the country for 15 years, and a major peacekeeping operation in the country, a rebel group called the M23 has operated in eastern Congo, terrorizing the region.
Affleck was one of five witnesses — and the only one asked to pose for pictures by starry-eyed aides — to testify to the committee about Congo. The African country of about 68 million people has seen an estimated 5 million people killed since a second regional war began there in 1997. State Department officials have described the situation in Congo as the most volatile in Africa.