Thank you Steve and Judd for the kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you tonight.
It has been quite eventful for the D.R.C. recently, on so many fronts!
It just had a historic peaceful transition of power, the first time in 60 years a president has changed hands with minimal bloodshed.
It faces many challenges, not least of which is the Ebola crisis. It is a country literally and figuratively at the center of African politics, and what happens there can and will influence the rest of Africa in many ways.
Concerning Ebola, as of Monday, the health ministry reported the total number of cases at 715 with the death toll reported at 443, in what is now the second largest Ebola outbreak in world history. We are committed to working with the new D.R.C. government, the UN, the World Health Organization and other international partners to contain the outbreak. We will continue to treat those infected with the virus and find long-term solutions to this epidemic.
We also provide about a quarter of MONUSCO’s annual budget of more than $1 billion to carry out its mandate, including the protection of civilians in the Ebola “hot zone.”
U.S. assistance is supporting the efforts of responders on the ground and strengthening neighboring countries’ preparedness in case the virus spreads.
U.S. experts deployed to Kinshasa and throughout the region are collecting data, procuring vaccines, providing technical advice and training officials on how to deal with Ebola. They are also advising the WHO and governments on Ebola strategy development.
Our assistance will continue, but security conditions and local community resistance prevents any USG presence in the Ebola-affected zones.
Health Minister Olly Ilunga’s coordination of the response effort has been commendable, and we would hope to see similar leadership and collaborative engagement continue under the Tshisekedi administration.
As the Ebola crisis is centered in the Beni region — where the presidential election was cancelled due to the outbreak and regional insecurity — management of the epidemic going forward will be a crucial early test for Tshisekedi’s new administration.
The D.R.C. election’s outcome, though problematic due to the flawed electoral process, is undoubtedly historic. The peaceful transition was magnitudes better than all of us expected even one month ago. The U.S. and international community went to great lengths to push the Kabila government to hold credible elections.
Former USUN Ambassador Haley is widely credited with persuading Kabila to finally establish an electoral calendar, along with key regional leaders.
And a number of U.S. officials personally engaged numerous times with D.R.C. interlocutors, as did our Special Envoy, Ambassador Hammer and our U.S. Embassy Kinshasa team. They all deserve much credit for working to prevent violence and to bring about a peaceful transfer of power few of us thought was possible.
Such a transition to an opposition candidate is a huge step for the D.R.C. and the surrounding region, which is characterized by a marked “democratic deficit.”
Also, it provides an opportunity to help consolidate democratic gains and norms. And we will stay engaged in the D.R.C. to support and advance these gains. We hope this will “seed” progress in the region and will put an end to the decades of conflicts in the Great Lakes region.
In addition, we will continue to voice our disapproval of the poor implementation of a flawed electoral process, which was far below the standards of a fully democratic process. We will hold accountable those most responsible for undermining D.R.C.’s democratic processes and institutions.
Large numbers of Congolese political stakeholders and commentators have signaled acceptance of the outcome, despite their own misgivings, while some expressed resentment towards outsiders who appear to have stepped in to influence the outcome.
Ultimately, the Congolese people have the final word. After President Kabila left office, there have been no meaningful protests to the election outcome. Felix Tshisekedi has vowed to unite the country, reform the security forces and justice sector, fight corruption, and spur greater U.S. investment and it is in our interest to help him succeed.
Now we can focus on improving strategic mineral supply chain security for the benefit of the Congolese people, combatting terrorism, promoting trade and combatting the scourge of Ebola.
We should remain optimistic, yet cautious, as we move forward.
Thanks again for coming here tonight, and I look forward to our discussion.