He’s best known as an actor and a filmmaker, but Ben Affleck has a special interest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and on Wednesday the “Argo” director testified before the House Armed Services Committee about what Affleck termed “the deadliest conflict since World War II.”
The founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, an advocacy and grant-making organization committed to peaceful solutions in the war-torn African nation, Affleck appeared on a panel with academic experts and government officials to address what the United States might do to help the country of some 68 million people.
“I am not here to ask for precious American tax dollars, I am here today to respectfully request you use the most important power you have, your collective voice as representatives of the United States of America,” Affleck said in his remarks to the committee.
Wearing a dark suit and reading closely from his written testimony, Affleck said he first visited the Congo in 2006 and has been in the country many times, with another visit planned for February.
"It is clear to me that the pursuit of durable peace in Congo is not hopeless, quite the contrary in fact,” Affleck said. “The solutions are not new, or particularly complex. But without persistent, high-level leadership by the United States, the key players will not come to the table and do their part.”
Affleck specifically asked that the Unites States use its leverage within the United Nations and with nations bordering the DRC to help stem the violence, poverty and disease that have killed more than 5 million people since 1998.
“For 15 years, the United Nations has run a peacekeeping mission in Congo. The time has come to fundamentally reconsider the scope of its mandate,” Affleck told the committee, chaired by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Affleck apologized for far exceeding his allotted five minutes of speaking time, as his prepared remarks were nearly three times that long.
At the end of his testimony, Affleck fielded questions, showing a deep knowledge of the country and its history. McKeon said that he was wholly unfamiliar with the nation’s troubles, telling Affleck and his fellow panelists. “I frankly knew nothing about the Congo other than what I learned today,” the chairman said.
For all of the country’s many troubles, Affleck expressed optimism over its future.
“Every day, I am inspired by the resilience and determination of the Congolese, who desperately want to live their lives in peace, earn a decent living, and raise their families just like the rest of us.”