What the U.S. Can Do for Congo

Does Hillary Clinton’s recent visit mean that the U.S. is finally willing to get serious about Congo’s crisis?

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Can the United States play a productive role in bringing peace to the region? I am willing to say yes, but only if the Obama administration is brave enough to move away from the disastrous tendencies that have characterized our engagement with African countries.

Additionally, much of the recent American attention to Congo has been viewed by Congolese as a response to their country’s recent $9 billion deal with China. Sinophobia tends to run rampant in Western capitals as the economic juggernaut solidifies massive business deals across a variety of African economies, reducing their reliance on the Western-dominated international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

For African leaders, the rise of China tends to be viewed more benignly, as an opportunity to reduce the Western interference in their country’s economic and political affairs. At a town hall meeting in Kinshasa held by Clinton, students called attention both to the history of American meddling in Congolese affairs and to their awareness of the increased Chinese presence, much to the consternation of the secretary of state.

While many average Congolese do worry about Chinese interests in Congo, most would not consider China any better or worse than the Western powers whose long history of involvement in the country has rarely been positive.

But after 15 years of unabated warfare, Congo deserves a fresh approach from the Obama administration. By providing real support for the ongoing peace process, holding our allies in the region accountable for their actions, and refusing to view Congo solely in the context of the rise of China, the administration can demonstrate that it is finally serious in its desire to help.

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